An introduction to the book of Revelation

The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, whatever he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it, because the time is near.

-Revelation 1:1-3

Here are some things to consider, about the book of Revelation.

Revelation is an epistle, a letter to Christians living at the time of it’s writing.  Just like reading and studying the other New Testament letters, we understand that they were first written to believers at that time and secondly are for later believers.

Revelation is written in an apocalyptic style.  The word revelation is from the Greek word Apokalupsis.  Apocalyptic means a disclosure of the other-worldly, the unseen.  The genre of  apocalyptic writing also is highly symbolic.  The message of revelation is told mostly in a symbolic, apocalyptic, way.  Jesus’ Olivet discourse (Matthew 24:1 – 25:46, Mark 13:1-37, and Luke 21:5-36) is also written in the apocalyptic style.

The purpose for or problem solved by this letter, written to seven churches and applicable to every generation since, is to give comfort in times of suffering.  The people whom Revelation is meant to minister to are believers who need comforting in a world where it looks like there is no hope.  The big idea of the book is, “God is in control, ruling, and comforting his children”.

Revelation as a book, is a prophecy; like the Old Testament books of Daniel and Zechariah, came to John in a series of visions.  We know that the purpose of prophecy is to encourage, edify and comfort believers.

There are four ways to interpret Revelation and you don’t have to interpret the whole book one way.

1. Preterist

The book is understood as having happened or being fulfilled in the first century.  The partial preterist view is that part of Revelation has been fulfilled.

2. Historical

Revelation presents the times from the first century to the end.

3. Idealist

Revelation is understood as a philosophy of history and is above time.

4. Futurist

Revelation is mostly about the future.  There has been throughout most of church history, a moderate futurist view, which sees the book of Revelation best understood from what it meant to its first hearers and seeing the seven letters applicable to any post first century church.  And the moderate futurist view sees God’s people as the church and not the nation of the Jews.  Moderate futurism also teaches that the church will go through tribulation, and be saved by God; and that the Temple will not be rebuilt, nor will God deal with Israel as a nation.  Through the 2,000 years of church history, this has been the view most held.

The dispensationalism futurist view sees Revelation as a template for the future. The seven letters are believed to be seven time periods of the church age.  Dispensationalism teaches that there will be a seven year tribulation before which, Christians will be raptured, disappeared.  Dispensationalism teaches that God will also deal with the nation of Israel, in judgement while offering salvation.  And the Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem.  Jesus will come again as the book finishes.  Despite it’s popularity, especially in American Evangelicalism, dispensationalism is not the majority view world-wide and across the spectrum of the church; and not at all the view of historic Christianity over the past 2,000 years; being only about 200 years old.

Futurists divide into camps about when the rapture will occur: pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post tribulation

The millennium

It is worth noting that there are three views on what is called “the millennium”, which is a symbolic or literal thousand year period mentioned only in Revelation 20:4 & 6.  These three views are the amillennial view that says the thousand years is a symbolic number meaning a long time, for the church age.  The postmillennial viewpoint teaches that there is a time period, perhaps literally 1000 years, perhaps figuratively long, when there will be a ‘golden age’ of prosperity and dominance of Christianity, before the second coming of Christ.  Postmillennialism teaches that the binding of Satan happens in a special time for the spread of the gospel, whereas amillennialism teaches that Jesus bound Satan at the cross.  The premillennial teaching is that the second coming of Christ comes before a literal 1000 year millennium.

The purpose of the book of Revelation is to comfort God’s people.  This is the message.

When was Revelation written?

Was Revelation written during Nero’s reign (54-69 AD), or after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, or as late as 96 AD?    Futurists seem to need the later date, so that the prophecies are seen to not be about the fall of Jerusalem.  And preterists seem to need to have Revelation written before Jerusalem’s fall, so as to see the book foretelling that event.

But whether or not the book was written before or after 70 AD and the fall of Jerusalem, it can still be seen as written against Rome and anti-Christian Roman culture.  If the book was written before 70 AD, that does not have to mean that it was written foretelling the calamity coming upon the Jews and Jerusalem.  But if you do believe that the events prophesied include the decimation of Jerusalem, then you would need to argue that Revelation was written before 70 AD.

The ‘popular view’ today, especially in American Evangelicalism, is the later date and that Revelation is not about and can not have been written before 70 AD.  Although there are arguments for this, these arguments must be believed to hold the futurist, dispensational viewpoint (it seems to me).  Because if we just use common sense and let scripture interpret scripture, and especially if we set aside Darbyism; in other words, if we hold off on imposing the interpretive grid of dispensationalism onto the scriptures and just let the scriptures speak to us (scripture interpreting scripture), and listen to what John is saying with a mind to his original audience in the first century, we can begin to understand this book for today.

Here are some pretty strong arguments for the earlier date of Revelation:

-The temple in Jerusalem seems to still be standing when Revelation was written:

Then I was given a measuring reed like a rod, with these words: “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count those who worship there.  But exclude the courtyard outside the temple. Don’t measure it, because it is given to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 

-Revelation 11:1-2

But, was this picture symbolic; and perhaps a future temple like how Ezekiel saw a future temple?

-James and Peter, who both died prior of AD 70 seem to have referred to things John wrote in Revelation:

Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

-James 1:12

Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will experience affliction for ten days. Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

-Revelation 2:10

But based on his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

-2 Peter 3:13

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 

-Revelation 21:1

Is Revelation non-linear?

Revelation might be telling the same story perhaps seven times.  Imagine having the same dream seven different nights in seven different ways.  What if Revelation is not linear and is not consecutive, but has a time-line that jumps backwards and forwards really all over the place to tell a story?  What if Revelation contains a series of visions that overlap a lot and are the same story told over and over?

The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, whatever he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it, because the time is near.

-Revelation 1:1-3

————————————

Bibliography / *for further study

Beasley-Murray, Hobbs, George, and Robbins; Revelation Three Viewpoints

*Clouse, Robert G., Editor; Boettner, Hoekema, Hoyt, and Ladd; The meaning of the Millennium: Four Views

*Gregg, Steve; Revelation Four Views

Griffin, Winn; God’s Epic Adventure

Grudem, Wayne; Systematic Theology

Meddling

Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler.

-1 Peter 4:15

How can Peter list meddling along side three other sins that seem much worse. Or are these four successively less damaging sins?

What does meddling mean?

This is what the dictionary says:

Meddle: to busy one’s self with or in something without warrant or necessity (as, “I will teach them…).

The Greek word in 1 Peter 4:15 is ‘allotriepiskopos’. What does it mean mean? Strong’s says, “One who takes the supervision of affairs pertaining to others and in no wise to himself, a meddler in other men’s affairs.”

The NET Bibles notes says, “The meaning of the Greek word used here is uncertain. It may mean “spy, informer,”, “revolutionary,” or “defrauder, embezzler”. But the most likely meaning is “busybody, one who meddles in the affairs of others, troublesome meddler.” The translation given in the text (NET: troublemaker) in intended to suggest this general idea.”

The Cambridge Bible notes say this, “Literally, the word (allotrio-episcopos) describes one who claims an authority like that of a bishop or superintendent in a region in which he has no right to exercise it. As such it might, of course, be applied to the schismatic self-appointed teacher, and “a bishop in another man’s diocese,” though too modern in its associations, would be a fair equivalent for it. Such an one, however, would hardly be singled out for punishment by a heathen persecutor, and we must therefore think of the word as describing a like character in another sphere of action. It was, perhaps, a natural consequence of the higher standard of morals which the Christian disciple possessed, or imagined himself to possess, that he should be tempted to interfere with the action of public or private men when he thought them wrong, intermeddling in season or out of season. Such a man might easily incur the penalties which attach to what, in modern language, we call “contempt of court,” or “obstruction of justice.” If a passing word of controversial application be allowable in a Commentary we may note the reproduction of the character of the allotrio-episcopos (1) in the permanent policy of those who claim to be the successors of St Peter, and (2) in the meddling fussiness which leads laymen, or clergy, to interfere in matters which properly belong to the office of a Bishop, or to the jurisdiction of an authorized tribunal.”

Matthew Poole wrote this: “Or as a busy-body in other men’s matters; either a covetous person, that looks with an evil eye upon what others have, and is ready to catch it as he can; or rather, one that goes beyond the bounds of his own calling, and invades the callings of others, pragmatically intruding into their business, and making himself a judge of those things which belong not to him.”

John Gill wrote this: “or as a busybody in other men’s matters; “or as a bishop in another man’s diocese”; that concerns himself in things he has nothing to do with, and neglects his own affairs, and lives in idleness, and upon the spoil of others; or takes upon him to manage, direct, order, and command other men’s servants, or persons that do not belong to him, to do his business, or whatsoever he pleases. The Vulgate Latin version renders it, “a desirer of other’s goods”; and the Ethiopic version, “a covetous desirer of other’s things”; and so is led on by an insatiable thirst for them, to obtain them in an evil way, either by secret fraud, or open violence and oppression. To suffer in any such cases is scandalous and dishonourable, and unbecoming the character of a Christian.”

Marvin Vincent wrote this: “One who usurps authority in matters not within his province. Rev., meddler. Compare Luke 12:13, Luke 12:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:11. It may refer to the officious interference of Christians in the affairs of their Gentile neighbors, through excess of zeal to conform them to the Christian standard.”

Wayne Grudem wrote this: “The sense ‘meddler’ (NIV; cf. ‘troublesome meddler’, NASB) seems best, since the separate parts mean ‘one who looks carefully on others’ affairs’ (or: the possessions of others), and the general idea would then be that of wrongdoing by meddling in affairs which are not properly one’s concern.”

Various ways that this word is translated:

a troublesome meddler interfering in the affairs of others; (AMP)

a mischief-maker (a meddler) in the affairs of others [infringing on their rights]. (AMPC)

rebel. (CEB)

try to control other people’s lives. (ERV)

prying into other people’s affairs. (TLB, NLT)

one who makes trouble or as one who tries to be the boss of other peoples’ lives. (NLV)

as an inspector into other men’s matters; (YLT)

infringing other men’s rights. (Knox)

a spy upon other peoples business. (Mon)

interfering in matters which do not concern Christians. (TCNT)

“Let none of you suffer”, is what the verse starts with. In other words, the meddler does not suffer for Jesus. There is grief and pain in trying to manage or control what is not yours to do so

Here is the context:

Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in having that name.

-1 Peter 4:12-16

It’s safe to say that meddling or being a bishop towards people of whom you are not their bishop, is not the way of Christ. Christians are not called to be the world’s arbitrators, even when they approach us and ask us to be so. We are not called to tell people what to do or how to live, even if they appeal to us to do so, but to tell them who to follow, who to give up everything for, and who to bow to as King. Preaching repentance is not meddling. The person being called to repent may take it as meddling. The message of repentance is a call to turn and bow to the King. Meddling is supervising or trying to control someone else’s life. Elders (bishops or overseers) in the church are not given the right to meddle in peoples lives, but are shepherds and servants, who do manage and supervise the household of God, but in the love of Christ and through the tempering of the Holy Spirit who gives the grace to lead people gently, with humility and meekness.

Song and word

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

-Philippians 4:4-7

Worship and word

Isaiah 6:1-3

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above him; they each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Armies;
his glory fills the whole earth.

Revelation 4:8-11

Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside. Day and night they never stop, saying,

Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God, the Almighty,
who was, who is, and who is to come.

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the one seated on the throne, the one who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before the one seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne and say,

Our Lord and God,
you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power,
because you have created all things,
and by your will they exist and were created.

Revelation 5:13

I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say,

Blessing and honor and glory and power be to the one seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb, forever and ever!

Revelation 15:4

Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All the nations will come and worship before you because your righteous acts have been revealed.

Word and song

You, God, showered abundant rain;
you revived your inheritance when it languished.

Save me, God,
for the water has risen to my neck.

-Psalm 68:9 and 69:1

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
-Revelation 12:11 (NKJV)

You have been a shelter Lord
To every generation, every generation
A sanctuary from the storm
To every generation, every generation, Lord

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