Revelation Genre and Destination

Revelation is from the Greek title word apokalypsis. This means “discourser of events,” or “discourser of the apocalypse.” It also means an “uncovering” or “unveiling” or as we have it in the English, a “Revelation.” The other title that has been used is “The Apocalypse.”

Thus, Revelation is a book of disclosures of John’s seven visions and God’s exhortations. This is why sometimes it is rendered as a plural, “Revelations,” even though the Greek word is singular.

The proper name is Revelation. The disclosure for us is the unfolding of historical events – past, present, and future, with God’s plan and purpose being the ultimate goal. Many people have feared Revelation and have thought it too mysterious to understand. But, Revelation was actually written to make things for us clearer—to expose and not conceal what God has for us.

Revelation is apocalyptic literature written in symbolism, poetry ,and imageries, as well as Old Testament Prophecy style (Matt. 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21; Rev. 1:2-3; 19:9; 22:7-19), all woven as a tapestry describing literal events (Rev. 1:1-4). John also uses the language in his current Greco-Roman figures of speech. Revelation has three main sections – a greeting and theme (Rev.1:1-4), then the main body (Rev. 1:4-22:21) which contains the succession of visions of spiritual warfare, warnings, and judgments, climaxing with the Second Coming of Christ, and finally a farewell (Rev. 22:21). Yet, the figurative speech and images, although borrowed from the Old Testament, would have been clear to an educated First Century Jew. It may not be a style we are familiar with in our contemporary culture, but it was very popular from 200 BC to 200 AD. Consider that describing our modern life with cars, freeways, electronics, and computers to a first century person would be unrecognizable and incomprehensible imageries.

What we take for granted, in what we know and what they knew, does not measure up in understanding one another. Revelation and its imagery were real and had application for them as they are real and have application for us, too. Much of the imagery was given to have a response from his readers, to evoke them from complacency on to spiritual activity. These images can be literal events as well as symbols. They can apply to the Church of Asia Minor and be reapplied to us. Sometimes John explains them; sometimes they are vague and we may not know what they mean until that day is upon us (Rev. 1:20).

Thus, there are no real mysteries other than when these events will happen or which ones had happened and the sequence of these events. However, time and sequence were not important to a Jewish mind or to our God who wants us focused upon Him as Lord. What we learn in our preparations is far more valuable than what will come about.

Much of what is spoken of in the Old Testament for Israel and the tribulation are found in Revelation 6-19. Its principle purpose is to reveal Christ as Lord and the end of the age. It also gives us firm instructions on how to live our lives being faithful to Christ and receiving His promise as well as His warnings. Revelation brings a lot of controversy because it is interpreted so varyingly.

We need to come to Revelation without a specific view, because each prophecy and image can have multiple meanings and multiple fulfillments.

Most of the Bible is very precise, but apocalyptic literature is difficult because God has not given us the final key. In addition, Revelation is about relationships and events in an Oriental logic form that does not have Western philosophical chronology in mind. Therefore, we must beware not to read into it our current idealistic

Revelation Theme and Purpose

Revelation is written to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, which is now modern Turkey (Rev. 1:4, 11). The principle purpose for the writing is the encouragement and chastisement for how they were running their churches (Rev. 2:1-3:22). John was fully convinced that Christ would triumph over the forces of Satan and his work in the world. He then exhorted them to be faithful and discerning between what is false and what is truth, and also warned them not to worship the Emperor or to comply with evil, apathy, or compromise. He restated the importance of discipleship and Christian formation so they (we) can be authentic Christians of excellence and distinction, bringing no disrepute to Christ or His Church.

Revelation is about the victory Christ brings, giving hope for those who are in Him and fear for those who do not know Him (Rev. 2:13; 19:20-21; 20:10-15).

As Christians, we can embrace Revelation rather than fearing it or the end times! God is the one who is in charge and in control. He has the big picture of the consummation of all humanity and history. He rules all of time and space, all events, and all actions; there is nothing in all of creation outside of His providence! Even in the darkest hours, God is in control. He will win and we who are in Him will be triumphant. Then, all of humanity will stand before the Throne, and all will be accountable; judgment for all who ever lived, rewards, condemnation, Heaven, and Hell await, and those who have oppressed His Church and children will be severely judged (Rev.1:12-16; 4:1-5:14)!

Revelation is just as much about how we are to live as it is about what is coming.

Our purpose is to understand that no matter what we have been through or will go through, God is in control and has our best interests in hand. Therefore, we can trust Him as we see His mighty hand throughout history and also in the future. We learn here on earth how we are to endure suffering and problems, not escape them, for there is no escape in a sin-infused world. Rather, it is how we discover and grow more from God’s work in us regardless of our situation that matters.

John knows what the church is going through, for he has personally experienced it. He has also experienced Christ firsthand and now has been receiving updated files from Christ in the form of seven visions. John’s visions bring hope as do all things in life when we are in Him. Our lives have significance and purpose; we are not alone for He is there with us. God is in command of all outcomes, the consummation, the fulfillment, the fruition, and the ultimate goal of His plan and purpose. Our call is to keep our churches in line with His precepts and in obedience (Rev. 4:1-5:14; 21:22-23; 22:5).

Revelation is also about the conflict between good and evil. It is both history and prophecy. It speaks to the first century churches of Asia Minor and it speaks to us today. For John’s readers, this book was also about what was going on in their day and in their churches. Knowing what is coming is important for our hope, but not vital to how we are to grow in Him or our faithfulness in staying firm to His truth.

Thus, John meets them head-on with the truth and with hope. He reassures them that Christ has not gone away, but He knows of their circumstances and has His plan for them. John gives them glimpses of the wonders of Heaven (Rev. 4-16). John is seeking to restore their confidence in Christ, and to persuade them to be encouraged and hold fast to their faith. He does not want them to fall prey to pagan practices and temptations or to false teachings, but, rather to focus firmly upon Christ so He is Lord over all fears and situations.

Christ has already secured the victory for life now and for eternity by His shed blood. Satan has been defeated and those who are evil and corrupt have been judged and sentenced (Rev. 5:9-10; 12:11; 19:11-20:10). We are victorious. We are made for eternity to be in Him, and our real hope and home is still to come (Rev. 7:15-17; 21:3-4).

The bulk of Revelation is dedicated to John’s seven visions in which Christ extols and rebukes the Church to get us to get our act together. John’s visions give us a depiction of things to come—a future history of the world through the Second Coming and into eternity. John also gives significant details in imageries. John not only gives us a glimpse of things to come, he also tells us how Satan operates and how to be on guard.

Revelation depicts how God is still in control even when Satan, the ultimate false prophet, the great dragon, and Beast is unleashed in his full power, causing insurmountable and suffering. Satan is seeking to lead the world astray now just as he will in his final act by seeking to not only blaspheme Christ, but trying to counterfeit Christ and provide us with a variety of misrepresentations. He seeks to attack God’s power and purpose and persecute those who are His (2 Cor. 11:14-15; Rev. 13; 17:1-9:10).Christ is the Divine Warrior who fights for us (Ex. 15:3; Isa. 59:16-18; 63:1-6; Eph. 1:13; Hab. 3:3-15; Zech. 9:13-15; 14:1-5; Dan. 7:1-8), and we can take hope because God is the One who is still seated on His throne and wins (Psalm 2:7; John 5:21-23; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3; Rev. 13: 1-10; 16:13; 17:14; 19:1-21).

At the same time, God has his remnant who remain faithful and true to Him, because fulfillment is in Christ, not in the false words and deeds of the false prophet (Rev. 12:11). The theme for the Christians in this age is to learn and to trust, to obey and remain faithful even against all odds, so we can remain spiritually pure and continue to grow. Satan seeks us to worship him; when he can’t, he seeks to disrupt us from who we are in Christ. Because Satan does not want us to be a good witness of Christ, he tries to sway us to only see our struggles, be seduced by the ways of the world, to conspire, fight, and gossip amongst ourselves, and to misunderstand or misuse our faith (Rev. 12:11; 14:4; 19:8; 21:9, 22-27).

Revelation is not a puzzle for which we must endeavor to find a code or secret meaning, nor is it a source book for our inclinations, theories, or conjectures.

Revelation is given so we can see God at work, His Wonder of Wonders, so we can pursue our faith with more diligence in trust and obedience, and to be prepared when He does return!