STUDY METHODS FOR REVELATION
I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION
A. Written by John, the son of Zebedee.
1. External evidence-- authorship verified by Justin Martyr (A.D. 140-160) and Irenaeus, pupil of Polycarp (elder of
Smyrna): Irenaeus wrote within seventy or eighty years of the writing of Revelation.
2. Internal evidence--although the Greek style is somewhat different from the Gospel of John, the references to Christ are
similar (John 17:7-8; 5:19-20; 7:16 compared with Rev 1:1; John 1:1; 14; I John 1:1 compared with Rev 19:13; and
John 19:34 compared with Rev 1:7).
B. Written during John's exile on Patmos in the time of Domitian's rule, about A.D. 95
1. External evidence-- Irenaeus, Origin, Victorious, Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria, Hegesippus, and Jerome are
early Christian writers who shared this opinion.
2. Internal evidences
a. The conditions of the seven churches of Asia requires some time for their development (Gnostic heresies of
chapters 2 & 3 required a later date than A.D. 70).
b. The persecution of Christians because of enforcing emperor worship fits the reign of Domitian (chapter 13).
Domitian raised himself above other gods and addressed himself as "our Lord and God" according to the ]
II. STUDY METHODS
A. Determine the meaning of the message for the seven churches of Asia, (Historical Background). For example, notice that
the seven churches are specifically addressed (1:1-4) and that each one is individually addressed with particular emphasis
(chapters 2 & 3).
B. Remember the visions of Daniel relative to the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God. For example, Daniel spoke of the
image of the four kingdoms and identified the Roman Empire as the fourth kingdom symbolized by the feet of clay mixed
with iron (Daniel 2:31-45).
C. Compare the visions of Revelation with similar visions from the Scriptures. For example, the vision of the two olive trees
in Zechariah (4:6,11-14) is very similar to that of the two witnesses in Rev. 11.
D. Try to see the principles involved in the conflicts portrayed in Revelation. For example, the warfare between Satan and
God (Rev. 12) is understood by Paul's description of spiritual warfare which is not physically accomplished
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
E. Try to see God's purpose for the things revealed. For example, God's purpose was to comfort persecuted saints by
promising that they would rest from their labors (Rev. 14:12-13).
F. Use easily understood scriptures to understand difficult passages. For example, the sword that proceeds from the mouth
of Christ (Rev. 1:16; 19:15) is obviously the word of God (Heb. 4:12-13)
G. Keep an open mind and do not try to fit everything into you own view; accept the obvious meaning within the context
of the book. For example, the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:6) were known to the Ephesians and we can know from history that
they were a heretical group.
H. Keep things simple. For example, the foundation stones of Rev. 21:19-20 can be simply understood to represent God's
glory and our preciousness to Him.
III. APOCALYPTIC LANGUAGE
A. Was written during a time of great persecution.
1. Needed to reveal truth to a select audience while remaining hidden to the persecutors.
2. Requires background knowledge in order to understand.
B. Uses visions to reveal and predict.
1. Old Testament examples are Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Joel.
2. Non canonical Apocalypses include The Book of Enoch, The Assumption of Moses, The Secrets of Enoch, The
Book of Baruch, and the book of IV Ezra.
C. Uses numbers to represent concepts: 1=unity; 2=strength; 3=divine, godly; 4=earthly, worldly; 5 & 10=complete, whole;
6=imperfect, evil; 7=perfect, holy; 12=godly order, design.
D. Uses obvious dramatic impact to give power to the message.
1. Blood from the winepress in Rev 14:20
2. Sword from the mouth of Christ in Rev 1:16 and 19:15.
3. The harlot as Rome in Rev 17.
E. Uses Old Testament terminology with New Testament meaning (two witnesses of chapter 11).
F. Uses the overall impact of the vision instead of the minute details to convey the message. (6:12-17 - From the seven bowls
of wrath we can understand that it is impossible to hide from God's wrath).
G. Addresses the imagination with pictures to encourage us to see with our mind. For example, the vivid description of the
beast rising from the sea (Rev. 13:1-4) impacts our imagination.
IV. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
A. We should not use our study of Revelation to create confusion or teach our own theories. For example, the historical
sequence theory of Revelation makes the man-child (Rev. 12) someone other than Christ.
B. Always use the things that are easily understood to help with the difficult. For example, God's theme in Revelation is that
we be faithful until death (2:10) even if we do not understand all the details within the book.
C. Never build a mysterious theory that conflicts with the plain teaching of the Bible. For example, we should not use the
language of Rev. 20:6 to build an elaborate theory of an earthly reign of Christ in conflict with the plain teachings of the
scriptures (John 18:36; Luke 17:20-21).
D. Remember the blessings for those who study revelation: Rev 1:3; 14:3; 16:5; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14.
V. MEMORY VERSES:--REVELATION 1:3 AND 22:7