An Outline of the Christian Faith, Part 2: Trinity (Revelation 1:4-5a)

As we have seen, the primary source of the Christian faith is revelation. Now we turn to the primary content of the Christian faith: Who God is and what he does. Revelation 4-5a touch on both topics.   Before examining these topics, however, notice the literary context of John’s remarks. Ancient letters begin with the sender’s name followed by the recipient’s name and a short greeting (e.g., Jas. 1:1, 1 Pet. 1:1–2)—just like John does here. But the greatness and goodness of God so overwhelm John that he transposes an ordinary greeting into an extraordinary declaration of God’s doing and … Continue reading An Outline of the Christian Faith, Part 2: Trinity (Revelation 1:4-5a)

An Outline of the Christian Faith, Part 1: Revelation (Revelation 1:1-3)

The message of John’s Apocalypse is complex and simple: Complex because it uses figurative language, which is capable of multiple interpretations. Simple because one person dominates throughout. The key to understanding Revelation is Jesus Christ. If we see him clearly, we will interpret it correctly.   In chapter 1, as a prologue to the whole book, John presents us with an outline of the Christian faith.   Revelation (Verses 1–3)   Over the years, I have accumulated many volumes of systematic theology (and even read some of them). Usually, they begin with a section on the sources of Christian faith: … Continue reading An Outline of the Christian Faith, Part 1: Revelation (Revelation 1:1-3)

How Should We Interpret Revelation?

“Of making many books there is no end,” said the Preacher, “and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecc. 12:12)—especially if you are studying commentaries about John’s Apocalypse.   Few books of the Bible have been as ill served by their later interpreters as the book of Revelation. D.A. Carson described the multitudinous Puritan commentaries on the book as “eminently forgettable and mercifully forgotten.”[1] G.K. Chesterton famously quipped that “though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.”[2] And Ambrose Bierce defined Revelation … Continue reading How Should We Interpret Revelation?

Why Was Revelation Written?

John states the purpose of his revelation at the very outset: “to show God’s servants the things that must soon take place” (Rev. 1:1). What kinds of things does he have in mind? A brief outline of Revelation can answer that question. John wants to show God’s servants that:  Jesus walks among his churches, encouraging them to “conquer” the trials and temptations they face (chs. 1–3). God is enthroned in heaven, and his Son is worthy to break the seven “seals” on the “scroll,” inaugurating divine judgment against sinful humanity (chs. 4–6). Because they have been sealed with God’s Holy … Continue reading Why Was Revelation Written?

Where Was Revelation Written?

Some time ago I purchased a small religious icon at a Greek festival in Irvine, California, which now hangs on my office wall. It is an icon of Christos Pantocrator—a picture of “Christ the Ruler of Everything.” Being Protestant, I did not purchase it as an aid to my worship of God, which is how icons are used in the Eastern Orthodox churches. Rather, I purchased it for its beauty, for its serene depiction of Christ’s authority, and for the location at which it was painted: Patmos.   Patmos is a small, rocky island in the Aegean Sea, ten miles … Continue reading Where Was Revelation Written?

When Was Revelation Written?

Revelation does not explicitly state when it was written, so its date is a mystery to be solved. And like any good mystery, there is evidence, both internal and external, to consider.   Internal evidence consists of clues within the book itself. For example, John mentions Jesus Christ in 1:1. So, John wrote Revelation after Jesus’ ministry, that is, after A.D. 30. External evidence consists of clues left by other writers about the book. For example, in approximately A.D. 130, Justin Martyr refers to Revelation. So, Revelation was written before then.   Can we date John’s Apocalypse with more precision? … Continue reading When Was Revelation Written?

What Kind of Book Is Revelation?

If you want to interpret Revelation properly, you must know what kind of book it is. This principle is true not only of Revelation but the entire Bible and all literature. Different literary genres require different rules of interpretation. You would never interpret a Shakespeare sonnet as you would a peer-reviewed scientific study, for example, nor a novel as a legal search warrant. Similarly, in the Bible, you would never interpret a parable as a historical narrative or a prophecy as a proverb. They are different kinds of literature, requiring genre-specific rules of interpretation.[i]   So, what kind of book … Continue reading What Kind of Book Is Revelation?

Who Wrote Revelation?

When reporting a story, journalists attempt to answer six questions for their readers: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Those same questions are useful for introducing John’s Apocalypse to you: Who wrote Revelation? What kind of book is it? When was it written? Where was it written? Why was it written? And how should we interpret it?   Who Wrote Revelation?   Revelation 1:1–2 identifies its author with these words: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to … Continue reading Who Wrote Revelation?