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Revelation 1:3

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”

Every book of the Bible was written for a specific reason and audience, features that we need to discern in order to understand the book’s message. Revelation is an apocalypse, the purpose of which is to reveal the spiritual powers at work beyond what our physical eyes can see. So, John wrote Revelation because God wants us to know His work behind the scenes (Rev. 1:1).

Yet, there is more. Revelation 1:3 tells us that we will be blessed if we read and obey the book of Revelation. The Lord wants to bless His people—indeed, He even rejoices over us (Zeph. 3:17)—and one way we can receive His blessing is by heeding the teaching of Revelation.

Promises that those who conquer by remaining faithful to the gospel as well as references to suffering and martyrdom indicate that at least some of the original audience of Revelation was suffering persecution (e.g., Rev. 2–3; 6:9–11; 7:14; 17:6). For this reason and others, most scholars believe that John wrote Revelation during the mid-90s AD, when Emperor Domitian instituted the first official persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire. A significant minority opinion holds that John wrote Revelation during the mid-60s AD, when Emperor Nero killed Christians in the city of Rome. Those who believe Revelation was written during Nero’s reign tend to see much of the book referencing historical events that occurred before AD 70 and that Revelation has much to say about the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in that same year. Interpreters who believe the work was written later tend to see Revelation as largely but not exclusively referencing post–AD 70 events. We will tentatively assume the later date while noting in our studies the places where a different date might affect our interpretation significantly.

Revelation is an apocalypse, but biblical apocalypse is actually related to prophecy, for several of the Old Testament prophetic books include apocalyptic sections—notably Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah. Thus, it is no surprise that John calls Revelation a work of prophecy (Rev. 1:3). Significantly, biblical prophets take past revelation from God and apply it to their day, and this is exactly what John does. His work is steeped in the Old Testament. While there are no direct quotations of the Old Testament in Revelation, scholars estimate that as much as 70 percent of the book consists of allusions to the Old Testament. Any faithful reading of Revelation must lean heavily on Genesis through Malachi.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

The prevalence of Old Testament allusions in Revelation, particularly from the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah, demonstrates the continuing importance of the Old Testament. Sadly, many Christians believe that the Old Testament is largely irrelevant and that they can make do with only the New Testament. Let us take care not to do that but to make sure that we study both testaments of God’s Word.

For Further Study
  • Psalm 1
  • Luke 24:13–35
  • Romans 1:1–4
  • 2 Timothy 3:16–17

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

John and the Seven Churches

Keep Reading Time

From the September 2020 Issue
Sep 2020 Issue