Date Written: c. 68-100 AD
The book is in letter format and is intended to be read aloud in the Christian liturgy (cf. 1:3). Revelation begins with a short explanation (1:1-8), an introductory vision of Jesus (1:9-20) and letters to seven churches (2:1-3:22). John relates a detailed vision of worship in heaven (4-5). Then he presents three series God's judgments on the earth: the seven seals (6:1-8:5), the seven trumpets (8:6-11:19) and the seven bowls (15-16). John has a vision of a woman clothed with the sun (12), which the church has traditionally understood as Mary. We also find a description of the "Whore of Babylon" and her fall (17-19). Finally, Jesus returns and the wedding feast of the Lamb occurs with a new heaven, new earth and new Jerusalem (19-22).
Though the book is very complex, there are a few keys to interpret its symbols. First, John is writing at a time of persecution, evident from the letters (cf. 2:13), so he wants to warn and encourage Christians. Second, he is writing in the context of the
Revelation presents a God-centered vision of the world. He reigns as king from his throne (4:2) and nothing takes place outside of his governance. The book's imaginative illustration of the Christian worldview places the truth of God above all else. While acknowleding the tragic yet heroic deaths of first century martyrs, Revelation adopts the perspective of oppressed people struggling against human systems of power. These systems, though strong, will all succumb to God's judgment and be brought low under his universal kingship. Revelation calls Christians not to hide until the end of the world, but to proclaim the victory of God's kingdom, which is coming. Just as Jesus was a faithful witness (1:5, martyr in Greek), all Christians are called to hold fast to the testimony of Jesus (12:17, 19:10, 20:4) even unto death. Revelation's expansive vision is inspiring, yet difficult to comprehend.
By Mark Giszczak