The Book of Revelations

Because it is the only one of its kind in the New Testament, it seems unique and unearthly.

In fact, there were many apocalypses written in this era, and this one shares many features of this genre.

I. What is an apocalypse?

1. Apocalypses are predicated on the dualist assumption that the world is divided into good and evil, and everything in the world is aligned on one side or the other.

2. The present age is evil, controlled by the Devil and his forces; the coming age will overturn it and the world will be controlled by God.

3. There will be a cataclysmic break between these two ages, and a long period of chaos and strife, followed by a last judgment of all beings living and dead.

4. Apocalyptic scenarios differ depending on whether they are written by Jews or Christians.

5. Apocalypses are usually written in times of great distress. They protest the present order of things and envison a different world.

II. What are characteristics of the apocalyptic genre?

1. Apocalypses are usually first person narratives who have been granted extraordinary visions or dreams of the coming age.

a. They are always pseudonymous (written in the name of a famous person from the past)

2. Types of apocalypses

a. Heavenly journeys

b. Historical sketches: future glimpses of the course of history

3. Symbolism, especially animal and numbers

4. A combat myth that divides the world into two sides

5. Violent repetitions

a. The repetitions violate the literal sense of the narrative

b. This repetition allows multiple use of symbols

6. Triumphalism

a. Hope for those who suffer now, revenge against their enemies

b. Motivation: endure until the end

c. Determinism: the fate of the world is governed by a cause that is playing out now

d. The point isn't to map the future but to provide hope and vindication for followers

III. What are the characteristics of this particular apocalypse?

     1. Isn't pseudonymous -- author simply calls himself John (no connection in style or theology to fourth gospel writer)

     2. Author was primarily literate in a Semitic language such as Aramaic and knew Greek as a second language

     3. Parts of the book written in the 60's, possibly during Nero's persecution; parts of it in the 90's (Domitian)

     4. Social context: Asia Minor, poorer classes, against the rulers and government of Rome

    5. SymbolsNumbers: 7 (perfection), 6 (imperfection), 3 (divinity)

       a.  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (6:1-8)

b.  the Seventh Seal  (8:1)

c.  Woman clothed with the sun (some kind of goddess?) (12:1-6)

       d. The Whore of Babylon = Rome (built on 7 hills), Babylon = city opposed to God in Old Testament

        e. The Beast 666 = probably a Roman emperor (gematria) (13:1-8)

       f. the bowls of God's wrath poured out on the earth (16:1)

       g. Armageddon: the cataclysmic battle on the plain of Megiddo (16:16)

       h.  The rider on the white horse (19:11-16)

       i. The thousand year reign of Christ on earth before the last judgment(20: 1-4)

      j. The New Heaven and the New Earth (21:1)

IV. Outline

  A.  Chapters 1-3:  Opening vision of the Son of Man:  Message to the seven churches

    B.  Chapter 4:  Vision of the heavenly throne

    C.  Chapter 5:  The Lamb with the Scroll of seven seals

    D.  Chapter 6:  First 4 seals:  the four horsemen

    E.  Chapters 19-20:  The rider on the white horse; defeat of the beast; Satan chained for one thousand years

    F.  Chapters 21-22:  The last judgment; The new heaven and the new earth; the lamb of God