VII – #1: Introduction to Revelation
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Sermon 1: Introduction to Revelation
Key Verse: Revelation 1:1-5

The Book of Revelation is easily the most misunderstood book of the Bible. No writing in the biblical canon has produced such widely divergent views as this one. What has driven this
confusion for centuries is a failure to understand some foundational structures in this text.

Today, as we open up this fascinating book, Pastor Rusty will discuss some of the foundational truths that will help us better understand how to approach this magnificent work. For God’s words to them, then, is still God’s word for us today.

My Goal Today
– Give you some foundational understandings of this book
– Present the four historical ways the book has been interpreted
– Set us up to examine the Seven Churches addressed in this writing

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The Book Itself
1. This is written in the form of an epistle (Revelation 1:1-5)

a. Jesus is the revealer
b. Contains an opening and closing like the other letters in the New Testament
c. These churches are real, live congregations of the time in real cities.
d. Thus, the first step toward gaining a correct understanding of Revelation is to recognize that it is an epistle to a particular group of Christians, aiming to address their specific needs at the time it was written. This requires that we should first seek to discover how it applied to and would have been understood by its original readership, as we would seek to do with any other epistle. Only secondarily do we transfer truths to our own modern circumstances. This is how responsible readers approach other letters in the NT.

2. This is also prophecy (1:3, 22:7, 10, 18, 19)

a. This prophetic word is imminent
b. This prophetic word is indefinite
c. Jesus has something to say about the future and how things will come to an end

3. This is also apocalyptic writing

a. Use of vivid images and symbols
i. Nations are depicted as animals
ii. Cities as either a harlot or a bride

b. Numbers convey more than merely counting units (full of sevens)

c. Depicts Good and Evil in stark terms

d. Draws heavily from Old Testament Images and Ideas

4. Written during the Domitian persecution

a. According to Pliny the Younger, Domitian believed that the Roman Empire was to be governed as a divine monarchy, with himself as the benevolent despot at its head. In addition to exercising absolute political power, Domitian believed the emperor- role encompassed every aspect of daily life, guiding the Roman people as a cultural and moral authority.

b. Several causes for his attack upon the church have been assigned: the unsocial habits of the Christians; the prevalent charges against them that they were atheists, child murderers, and addicted to malevolent magic; Domitian- zeal for the traditional Roman religion; an effort on his part to force the Christians to contribute to the fiscus Judaicus-; Scholars, however, are now coming by general agreement to date the Book of Revelation in Domitian’s reign.- And the Domitianic persecution was called forth by a refusal on the part of the Christians to participate in the observances of the imperial cult. (THE


c. Can refer to the Neronian persecution at times

5. Leads believers to make tough choices about their commitment to Christ and the

a. Persecution forced believers to consider their relationship with Christ and to the community of Christ.

Four Views on Revelation
Many Bible readers are unfamiliar with various interpretive methods used throughout history. Familiarity with these approaches will assist believers in the various ways this book has been understood over the past two millenniums. Understanding these approaches helps us better dialogue with believers who hold different perspectives about the book.

1. Historical- The events described in Revelation begin in the author’s day and span history,
continuing into the present (often in 7 main periods of history)
– Very subjective approach
– Little agreement between the adherents
– Views the Papacy as the Anti-Christ

2. Futurist- the events described in Revelation will occur in the future of the last days
– Extremely popular
– Very literal approach to the readings
– Sees the book as a chart of history (“yet to take place”)
– Most of the book becomes largely irrelevant to the Church through history (skipping over the real persecution experienced by the early church).

3. Spiritualist (Idealist)- The events described in Revelation do not describe literal events but rather help us understand God’s character and interaction with the world in a general way.- Does not point to any particular person or time period
– Rather, these writings refer to the recurring themes of war, persecution, famine, etc
– What is on display are principles of human conduct and God’s interaction with these cycles.
– Most of the other views incorporate this approach to some degree in their interpretive system.

4. Preterist- The majority of events described in Revelation occurred in the author’s day
– Immediate Relevance (must shortly come to pass)
– Coheres with the destruction of Jerusalem and Josephus’ historical record
– The message aligns with the governmental persecution of the early church
– Works much like other New Testament Letters

My Approach
– John is writing to real congregations who are facing real persecution (Chapters 1-3)
– John also highlights the bigger picture of God’s work in Heaven and earth between Jesus’ departure and return highlighted cycles of judgment, persecution, and difficulty (Chapter 4-18)
– John then highlights how Jesus will return and set up His new Kingdom (Chapter 19-22)

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Table Talk Card

Please use these questions throughout the week to discuss the message with family and friends.

Take notes below