You Can Provide Clean Water to Persecuted Christians

Introduction to Revelation




The resurrected, glorified Jesus Christ revealed himself to the apostle John, who had been imprisoned “on the island called Patmos” (1:9). Christ’s twofold purpose was: (1) to “unveil” a spiritual diagnosis for seven of the churches in Asia Minor with which John was familiar (chaps. 2-3), and (2) to reveal to John a series of visions setting forth events and factors related to the end times (chaps. 4-22).

Apostle John the Theologian on the Island of Patmos by Andrey Mironov (b. 1975)

Apostle John the Theologian on the Island of Patmos by Andrey Mironov (b. 1975)


AUTHOR: The traditional view holds that the author of Revelation is the apostle John, who wrote the Fourth Gospel and the three letters of John. Evidences for this view include the following. (1) The writer referred to himself as “John” (1:4,9; 22:8). (2) He had personal relationships with the seven churches of Asia Minor (1:4,11; 2-3). (3) His circumstances at the time of writing (1:9) matched those of John the apostle (who was placed in Asia Minor from about AD 70 to 100 by reliable historical sources from the second century AD). (4) The saturation of the book with Old Testament imagery and echoes implies a Jewish writer, like John, operating in overwhelmingly Gentile Asia Minor.

BACKGROUND: The initial audience that received the book of Revelation was a group of seven local churches in southwest Asia Minor (1:11; 2-3). Some of these congregations were experiencing persecution (2:9-10,13), probably under the Roman emperor Domitian (ruled AD 81-96). Others had doctrinal and practical problems (2:6,13-15,20-23). Also behind these surface problems was the backdrop of unseen but powerful spiritual warfare (2:10,14,24; 3:9).

Though some scholars have dated the book later and a few have dated it earlier, commonly held dates of Revelation among evangelical scholars are the mid-90s and the late 60s of the first century AD. The mid-90s view is the stronger view, and it is held by the majority of scholars. Each view gives a different account of the persecution portrayed in the letters to the churches (2:9-10,13). Substantial historical evidence shows that some of the churches were persecuted intensely by Nero in the late 60s. But the reference in 17:10 to seven kings, five of whom have fallen, supports a date in the mid-90s, during the reign of Domitian.

While a case can be made for a late-60s date based on the Nero-related inferences and a possible reference to the Jerusalem temple in 11:1-2 (which may imply that the temple had not yet been destroyed, as it was by the Romans in AD 70), all other factors favor a date of about AD 95. Most notable among these factors is the tradition that John the apostle was exiled to Patmos during a period of intensifying local persecution of Christians by the Emperor Domitian (ruled AD 81-96).


Much of the book of Revelation focuses on events at the end of the age (eschatology), more so than any other book in the Bible. But it also focuses on practical choices that believers and unbelievers must make in the course of their lives that have far-reaching consequences at the end.


The book of Revelation provides an almost complete overview of theology. There is much in this book about Christ, mankind and sin, the people of God (both the church and Israel), holy angels, and Satan and the demons. There is important material on God’s power and tri-unity (i.e., Trinity), plus aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit and the nature of Scripture.


The book of Revelation previews its sequential structure in 1:19: “Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this.” From the apostle John’s vantage point in being commanded to “write,” he had already seen the vision of the exalted Son of Man (chap. 1). Next, he was told to “write” letters to the seven churches, telling each the state of its spiritual health (chaps. 2-3). Lastly comes the body of the book (4:1-22:5), which covers all the events that would “take place after this.”


I.Introduction: “What You Have Seen” (1:1-20)

A.Prologue (1:1-3)

B.Salutation and doxology (1:4-8)

C.The Son of Man and the churches (1:9-20)

II.Letters to the Churches of Asia: “What Is” (2:1-3:22)

A.The church in Ephesus (2:1-7)

B.The church in Smyrna (2:8-11)

C.The church in Pergamum (2:12-17)

D.The church in Thyatira (2:18-29)

E.The church in Sardis (3:1-6)

F.The church in Philadelphia (3:7-13)

G.The church in Laodicea (3:14-22)

III.Visions of the End Times: “What Will Take Place after This” (4:1-22:5)

A.The heavenly throne room (4:1-5:14)

B.The opening of the seven seals (6:1-8:1)

C.The sounding of the seven trumpets (8:2-11:19)

D.The signs before God’s final wrath (12:1-14:20)

E.The seven bowls of God’s wrath (15:1-19:5)

F.The reign of the King of kings (19:6-20:15)

G.The new Jerusalem (21:1-22:5)

IV.Conclusion (22:6-21)

A.The command not to seal the scroll (22:6-13)

B.Washing robes and the water of life (22:14-17)

C.Warning about adding to the prophecy (22:18-19)

D.Closing assurance and benediction (22:20-21)



The Fall


Tower of Babylon

2200-550 BC

Abraham 2166-1991

Moses 1526-1406

David 1050?-970

Divided kingdom 931

Israel is defeated and taken into exile by the Assyrians. 722

Judah is destroyed and taken into exile by the Babylonians. 586

550-5 BC

Persian hegemony 539-331

Exiles return to Jerusalem 538

Greek hegemony 331-63

Roman hegemony 63 BC-AD 476

Jesus’s birth 5 BC

AD 30-100

Jesus’s trials, death, and resurrection Nisan 14-16 or April 3-5, 33

Pentecost 33

Saul’s conversion on the Damascus Road October 34

Fall of Jerusalem to the Romans 70

John is spiritual leader of the church at Ephesus. 70-100