Date: mid-90s AD
Audience: Seven Churches
Purpose: To give hope to persecuted Christians and declare God’s final victory
Christ followers in the first century faced daily choices to trust in Jesus as persecution began to sweep through the church. In response, John penned his final letter and the final book of the New Testament to offer encouragement and hope. The book describes itself as both apocalyptic (Revelation 1:1) and prophetic (Revelation 1:3) and is divided into two parts. The first part (Revelation 1-3) contains specific messages for churches in Asia Minor. The remainder of the book contains visions and images of the future that have been the subjects of many different interpretations by the church throughout history. Some view the book as a description of future events while others view it as a description of the ongoing struggle between good and evil. Others believe the events referenced in the book occurred during the first century. Whatever the interpretation, the most important thing to remember is that the book of Revelation is not intended primarily to reveal to us timelines of future events but to reveal to us the majesty and awesomeness of the reign of Jesus Christ– seated and victorious on the throne.
The last living disciple, John was exiled on the Isle of Patmos when Jesus showed him a vision of the future. Hints of Christ’s return are sprinkled throughout the New Testament, but John’s writing is the most comprehensive picture of the ultimate goals that all of history is rushing towards. With its vivid, mystical and sometimes disturbing graphic images of judgments, battles, trumpets, and scrolls, Revelation offers encouragement to those enduring hardship, and it’s applicable to people living in all eras of history. Despite our circumstances, we can be assured that Jesus is in control at all times.
As you read the book of Revelation, pay attention to the following:
- The specific encouragements and warnings delivered to the seven churches. Which ones are relevant to your life?
- Descriptions of the throne room of God. Keep those images in mind as you worship.
- Descriptions of the New Heavens, New Earth, and the River of Life. Many of these images tie all the way back to Old Testament writings. Take a moment to thank God for his goodness, sovereignty, and faithfulness throughout his story and your story.