The Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah to Yochanan

The End Times

In my last post, we completed our Glossary of Theological Terms Used in the Study of the End Times In this post, we will review an Introduction to Revelation.

Introduction to Revelation

The book of Revelation, the last book in the Brit Hadassah, polarizes readers. Some see in it the key to the universe, or at least the key to the future. Others find it completely opaque or dismiss it as nonsense. Some regard its highly picturesque language as literal, others as symbolic, and still others as sometimes one and sometimes the other, or even both at once.  In Glossary of Theological Terms Used in the Study of the End Times ~ Part 1, we reviewed the Four Views of interpreting the book.

The Greek word for “revelation” is apokalupsis (“unveiling”), which gives the book its other popular title, The Apocalypse, and raises the question of how this book relates to a category of Jewish writing called “apocalyptic literature.”

In his introductory remarks in the Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern, he writes:

George Eldon Ladd calls Jewish apocalyptic “tracts for hard times.” Biblical imagery and symbolic language are used to express the idea that this world offers no hope for improvement; but history will end with a cosmic catastrophe, at which time the apparently victorious wicked will be punished and the downtrodden righteous rewarded. Such books as The Assumption of Moses, 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra and The Apocalypse of Baruch are examples. Moreover, Isaiah 26-29, Zechariah 12-14, and Daniel 7-12 offer a biblical pattern for these later, extra-biblical books.

The book of Revelation is sometimes said to be merely another example of Jewish apocalyptic, but there are these differences:

  1. Most of the Jewish apocalypses were written pseudonymously, in the names of heroes long dead. Revelation’s author uses his own name, reflecting the fact that in New Testament times God had restored prophecy (Acts 11:27), and Yochanan was a prophet (Revelation 1:3).
  2. Jewish apocalypses are pseudo-predictive – the author writes from a viewpoint in the past and “predicts” history that has already taken place. But Yochanan stands in his own time and looks forward to God’s future consummation of his redemptive purpose.
  3. The Jewish apocalypses are entirely pessimistic about the past and present. Revelation’s author looks to the past work of Yeshua as the ground for present hope. Moreover, the book of Revelation is highly distinctive in the way it uses the Tanakh.

There are very few direct quotations, but no less than five hundred allusions to the Tanakh, especially the books of Exodus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah and Daniel. In fact, they are so numerous and frequent that I have not attempted to note very many of them either in the text of the Jewish New Testament or in this commentary; the interested reader should consult other commentaries on Revelation. But the overall effect of so many Tanakh references and allusions is to anchor every part of the book in the God-inspired words of Israel’s Prophets.

Author

Early Church Fathers – notably Justin Martyr (writing c. 135-150 CE), Melito of Sardis (mid-2nd century), and Irenaeus of Lyons (writing c. 185 CE) – consistently identified the author as Yochanan the son of Zebedee, the beloved talmid who authored the Fourth Gospel and three other epistles in the Brit Hadassah.

Date

There were ten Roman emperors who are believed to have persecuted Messianic Believers.  However, only two did so during the lifetime of Yochanan – namely Nero, who reigned from 54 to 68 CE, and Domitian, who reigned from 81 to 96 CE.  Most modern scholars appear to favor the later date, in the later time of Domitian, for the writing of Revelation, placing it at about 96 CE.  Others defend an earlier date in the reign of Nero – perhaps 67 or 68 CE.  Preterists favor the earlier date since that would make the book predate the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

The strongest argument for the later date is based on the testimony of extrabiblical sources.  Several church fathers indicate that Domitian was emperor when Yochanan wrote Revelation.  All of them base their information on the important testimony of Irenaeus quoted in “Against Heresies 5.30.3”: “John received the Revelation almost in our own time, toward the end of the reign of Domitian.”

Key Themes [1]
1. Through his sacrificial death, Jesus Christ has conquered Satan, the accuser, and has ransomed people from every nation to become a kingdom of priests, gladly serving in God’s presence. 1:5, 18; 5:5-10; 12:1-11
2. Jesus Christ is present among his churches on earth through his Holy Spirit, and he knows their trials, triumphs, and failures. 1:12-3:22
3. World history, including its woes and disasters, is firmly in the control of Jesus, the victorious Lamb. 5:1-8:1
4. God is presently restraining his own wrath and his enemies’ efforts to destroy the church as he patiently gathers his redeemed people through the testimony that his suffering people proclaim about Jesus. 6:5-11; 7:1-3; 8:6-12; 9:4-6, 18; 11:3-7; 12:6, 13-17
5. Present disasters (war, drought, famine, epidemic disease), though limited in scope by God’s restraint, are foreshadows and warnings of escalating judgments to come. 6:3-16; 8:6-13; 11:13; 16:1-21; 20:11-15
6. By maintaining their faithful testimony to the death, believers in Jesus will conquer both the dragon and the beast. The martyrs’ victory, now hidden, will be manifest in their vindication at Christ’s return. 2:10-11, 26-29; 3:11-13; 6:9-11; 7:9-17; 11:7-12, 17-18; 12:10-11; 14:1-5; 15:2-4; 20:4-6
7. Satan attacks the church’s perseverance and purity through violent persecution, through deceptive teaching, and through affluence and sensual pleasure. 2:1-3:22; 13:1-18; 17:1-18:24
8. At the end of the age, the church’s opponents will intensify persecution, but Jesus, the triumphant Word of God, will defeat and destroy all his enemies; the old heaven and earth, stained by sin and suffering, will be replaced by the new heaven and earth; and the church will be presented as a bride in luminous purity to her husband, the Lamb. 16:12-16; 19:11-21; 20:7-22:5

In my next post, we will begin our verse-by-verse study of this fascinating prophesy.  As we go through the letter, I’ll present the different views as we come to passages that are interpreted differently by the adherents to those views of interpretation presented in Part 1 of the Glossary.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] ESV Study Bible, The: English Standard Version.

 

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