Book of Revelation

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Frontispiece, Book of Revelation, Bible of San Paolo fuori le Mura, 9th century BibleSPaoloFol331vFrontRev.jpg
Frontispiece, Book of Revelation, Bible of San Paolo fuori le Mura, 9th century
The Vision of John on Patmos by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld 1860. Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bibel in Bildern 1860 236.png
The Vision of John on Patmos by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld 1860.

The Book of Revelation, often called the Book of Revelations, Revelation to John, the Apocalypse of John, The Revelation, or simply Revelation, the Revelation of Jesus Christ (from its opening words) or the Apocalypse , is the final book of the New Testament, and therefore also the final book of the Christian Bible. It occupies a central place in Christian eschatology. Its title is derived from the first word of the text, written in Koine Greek: apokalypsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation" (before title pages and titles, books were commonly known by the incipit, their first words, as is also the case of the Hebrew Five Books of Moses (Torah). The Book of Revelation is the only apocalyptic document in the New Testament canon (although there are short apocalyptic passages in various places in the Gospels and the Epistles) The only extended passage in the Old Testament is in the Book of Daniel. [lower-alpha 1]

New Testament Second division of the Christian biblical canon

The New Testament is the second part of the Christian biblical canon, the first being the Old Testament. The New Testament discusses the teachings and person of Jesus, as well as events in first-century Christianity. Christians regard both the Old and New Testaments together as sacred scripture.

Christian eschatology is a major branch of study within Christian theology dealing with the "last things." Eschatology, from two Greek words meaning "last" (ἔσχατος) and "study" (-λογία), is the study of 'end things', whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, the end of the world or the nature of the Kingdom of God. Broadly speaking, Christian eschatology is the study concerned with the ultimate destiny of the individual soul and the entire created order, based primarily upon biblical texts within the Old and New Testament.

Incipit first few words of the opening line of a poem, song, or book, often used in lieu of a title

The incipit of a text is the first few words of the text, employed as an identifying label. In a musical composition, an incipit is an initial sequence of notes, having the same purpose. The word incipit comes from Latin and means "it begins". Its counterpart taken from the ending of the text is the explicit.


The author names himself in the text as "John", but his precise identity remains a point of academic debate. Second-century Christian writers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Melito the bishop of Sardis, and Clement of Alexandria and the author of the Muratorian fragment identify John the Apostle as the "John" of Revelation. [1] Modern scholarship generally takes a different view, [2] and many consider that nothing can be known about the author except that he was a Christian prophet. [3] Some modern scholars characterise Revelation's author as a putative figure whom they call "John of Patmos". The bulk of traditional sources date the book to the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian (AD 81–96), and the evidence tends to confirm this. [4]

Justin Martyr 2nd century Christian apologist and martyr

Justin Martyr was an early Christian apologist, and is regarded as the foremost interpreter of the theory of the Logos in the 2nd century. He was martyred, alongside some of his students, and is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Irenaeus Bishop and saint

Irenaeus was a Greek bishop noted for his role in guiding and expanding Christian communities in what is now the south of France and, more widely, for the development of Christian theology by combatting heresy and defining orthodoxy. Originating from Smyrna, now Izmir in Turkey, he had heard the preaching of Polycarp, who in turn was said to have heard John the Evangelist.

Clement of Alexandria Christian theologian

Titus Flavius Clemens, also known as Clement of Alexandria, was a Christian theologian and philosopher who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. A convert to Christianity, he was an educated man who was familiar with classical Greek philosophy and literature. As his three major works demonstrate, Clement was influenced by Hellenistic philosophy to a greater extent than any other Christian thinker of his time, and in particular by Plato and the Stoics. His secret works, which exist only in fragments, suggest that he was also familiar with pre-Christian Jewish esotericism and Gnosticism. In one of his works he argued that Greek philosophy had its origin among non-Greeks, claiming that both Plato and Pythagoras were taught by Egyptian scholars. Among his pupils were Origen and Alexander of Jerusalem.

The book spans three literary genres: the epistolary, the apocalyptic, and the prophetic. [5] It begins with John, on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, addressing a letter to the "Seven Churches of Asia". He then describes a series of prophetic visions, including figures such as the Seven Headed Dragon, The Serpent and the Beast, culminating in the Second Coming of Jesus.

Letter (message) written message on paper containing information sent from one party to another

A letter is a written message conveyed from one party to another party through a medium. Letters can be formal and informal. Besides a means of communication and a store of information, letter writing has played a role in the reproduction of writing as an art throughout history. Letters have been sent since antiquity and are mentioned in the Iliad. Historians Herodotus and Thucydides mention and utilize letters in their writings.

Apocalyptic literature is a genre of prophetical writing that developed in post-Exilic Jewish culture and was popular among millennialist early Christians.

Patmos Place in Greece

Patmos is a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It is the location of the vision given to the disciple John in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, and where the book was written.

The obscure and extravagant imagery has led to a wide variety of Christian interpretations: historicist interpretations see in Revelation a broad view of history; preterist interpretations treat Revelation as mostly referring to the events of the apostolic era (1st century), or, at the latest, the fall of the Roman Empire; futurists believe that Revelation describes future events, the seven churches growing into the body/believers throughout the age, and a reemergence or continuous rule of a Roman/Graeco system with modern capabilities described by John in ways familiar to him; and idealist or symbolic interpretations consider that Revelation does not refer to actual people or events, but is an allegory of the spiritual path and the ongoing struggle between good and evil.

Christian Historicism is a method of interpretation of Biblical prophecies which associates symbols with historical persons, nations or events. The main primary texts of interest to Christian historicists include apocalyptic literature, such as the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. It sees the prophecies of Daniel as being fulfilled throughout history, extending from the past through the present to the future. It is sometimes called the continuous historical view. Commentators have also applied historicist methods to ancient Jewish history, to the Roman Empire, to Islam, to the Papacy, to the Modern era, and to the end time.

Apostolic Age Period of early Christian history dated from 33 AD to 100 AD

In Christianity, the Apostolic Age is the period from the death of Jesus until the death of the last of the Twelve Apostles. It holds special significance in Christian tradition as the age of the direct apostles of Jesus.

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–476 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of ancient Rome, consisting of large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean sea in Europe, North Africa and West Asia ruled by emperors. From the accession of Caesar Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, it was a principate with Italy as metropole of the provinces and its city of Rome as sole capital. The Roman Empire was then ruled by multiple emperors and divided in a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when it sent the imperial insignia to Constantinople following the capture of Ravenna by the barbarians of Odoacer and the subsequent deposition of Romulus Augustus. The fall of the Western Roman Empire to Germanic kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Composition and setting

St. John the Evangelist on Patmos by Hieronymous Bosch, circa 1489 Johannes op Patmos Saint John on Patmos Berlin, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Gemaldegalerie HR.jpg
St. John the Evangelist on Patmos by Hieronymous Bosch, circa 1489

Title, authorship, and date

St. John receives his Revelation. Saint-Sever Beatus, 11th century. ApocalypseStSeverFol026vJohnRecievesRev.jpg
St. John receives his Revelation. Saint-Sever Beatus, 11th century.

The name Revelation comes from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: ἀποκάλυψις (apokalypsis), which means "unveiling" or "revelation". The author names himself as "John", but modern scholars consider it unlikely that the author of Revelation also wrote the Gospel of John. Pope Dionysius of Alexandria set out some of the evidence for this view as early as the second half of the third century, noting that the gospel and the epistles attributed to John, unlike Revelation, do not name their author, and that the Greek of the gospel is stylistically correct and elegant while that of Revelation is neither; some later scholars believe that the two books also have radical differences in theological perspective. [6]

Koine Greek, also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the common supra-regional form of Greek spoken and written during the Hellenistic period, the Roman Empire, and the early Byzantine Empire, or late antiquity. It evolved from the spread of Greek following the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC, and served as the lingua franca of much of the Mediterranean region and the Middle East during the following centuries. It was based mainly on Attic and related Ionic speech forms, with various admixtures brought about through dialect levelling with other varieties.

Gospel of John Book of the New Testament

The Gospel of John is the fourth of the canonical gospels. The work is anonymous, although it identifies an unnamed "disciple whom Jesus loved" as the source of its traditions. It is closely related in style and content to the three Johannine epistles, and most scholars treat the four books, along with the Book of Revelation, as a single corpus of Johannine literature, albeit not from the same author.

Pope Dionysius of Alexandria Pope of Alexandria

Saint Dionysius of Alexandria, named "the Great," 14th Pope of Alexandria & Patriarch of the See of St. Mark from 28 December 248 until his death on 22 March 264, after seventeen years as a bishop. Most known information about him comes from Dionysius' large surviving correspondence. Only one original letter survives to this day; the remaining letters are excerpted in the works of Eusebius.

Tradition ascribes the authorship to John the Apostle, but it seems unlikely that the apostle could have lived into the most likely time for the book's composition, the reign of Domitian, and the author never states that he knew Jesus. [7] All that is known is that this John was a Jewish Christian prophet, probably belonging to a group of such prophets, and was accepted as such by the congregations to whom he addresses his letter. [4] [8] His precise identity remains unknown, [9] and modern scholarship commonly refers to him as "John of Patmos" [10] (Revelation 1:9 – "I was put on the Island of Patmos").

John the Apostle apostle of Jesus; son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of James,; traditionally identified with John the Evangelist, John of Patmos, and the Beloved Disciple

John the Apostle was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament, which refers to him as Ἰωάννης. Generally listed as the youngest apostle, he was the son of Zebedee and Salome or Joanna. His brother was James, who was another of the Twelve Apostles. The Church Fathers identify him as John the Evangelist, John of Patmos, John the Elder and the Beloved Disciple, and testify that he outlived the remaining apostles and that he was the only one to die of natural causes. The traditions of most Christian denominations have held that John the Apostle is the author of several books of the New Testament.

Jewish Christian Members of the Jewish movement that later became Christianity

Early Christianity had its roots in Hellenistic Judaism and the Jewish messianism of the first century and Jewish Christians were the first Christians. Christianity started with Jewish eschatological expectations, and it developed into the veneration of a deified Jesus after his earthly ministry, his crucifixion, and the post–crucifixion experiences of his followers.

John of Patmos Christian saint and author of the Book of Revelation

John of Patmos is the author named as John in the Book of Revelation, the apocalyptic text forming the final book of the New Testament. The text of Revelation states that John was on Patmos, a Greek island where, by most biblical historians, he is considered to be in exile as a result of anti-Christian persecution under the Roman emperor Domitian.

The book has been written about 95 AD. The date is suggested by clues in the visions pointing to the reign of the emperor Domitian. [11] The beast with seven heads and the number 666 seem to allude directly to the emperor Nero (reigned AD 54–68), but this does not require that Revelation was written in the 60s, as there was a widespread belief in later decades that Nero would return. [12] [4]


Revelation is an apocalyptic prophecy with an epistolary introduction addressed to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia. [3] "Apocalypse" means the revealing of divine mysteries; [13] John is to write down what is revealed (what he sees in his vision) and send it to the seven churches. [3] The entire book constitutes the letter—the letters to the seven individual churches are introductions to the rest of the book, which is addressed to all seven. [3] While the dominant genre is apocalyptic, the author sees himself as a Christian prophet: Revelation uses the word in various forms twenty-one times, more than any other New Testament book. [14]


The predominant view is that Revelation alludes to the Old Testament although it is difficult among scholars to agree on the exact number of allusions or the allusions themselves. [15] Revelation rarely quotes directly from the Old Testament, yet almost every verse alludes to or echoes older scriptures. Over half of the references stem from Daniel, Ezekiel, Psalms, and Isaiah, with Daniel providing the largest number in proportion to length and Ezekiel standing out as the most influential. Because these references appear as allusions rather than as quotes, it is difficult to know whether the author used the Hebrew or the Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures, but he was clearly often influenced by the Greek. He very frequently combines multiple references, and again the allusional style makes it impossible to be certain to what extent he did so consciously. [16] [ need quotation to verify ]


Conventional understanding until recent times was that the Book of Revelation was written to comfort beleaguered Christians as they underwent persecution at the hands of a megalomaniacal Roman emperor, but much of this has now been jettisoned: Domitian is no longer viewed as a despot imposing an imperial cult, and it is no longer believed that there was any systematic empire-wide persecution of Christians in his time. [17] [ additional citation(s) needed ] The current view is that Revelation was composed in the context of a conflict within the Christian community of Asia Minor over whether to engage with, or withdraw from, the far larger non-Christian community: Revelation chastises those Christians who wanted to reach an accommodation with the Roman cult of empire. [18] This is not to say that Christians in Roman Asia were not suffering, for withdrawal from, and defiance against, the wider Roman society, which imposed very real penalties; Revelation offered a victory over this reality by offering an apocalyptic hope: in the words of professor Adela Yarbro Collins, "What ought to be was experienced as a present reality." [19]

Canonical history

Revelation was the last book accepted into the Christian biblical canon, and to the present day some churches that derive from the Church of the East reject it. [20] [21] Eastern Christians became skeptical of the book as doubts concerning its authorship and unusual style [22] were reinforced by aversion to its acceptance by Montanists and other groups considered to be heretical. [23] This distrust of the Book of Revelation persisted in the East through the 15th century. [24]

Dionysius (248 AD), bishop of Alexandria, disciple of Origen wrote that the Book of Revelation could have been written by Cerinthus although he himself did not adopt the view that Cerinthus was the writer. He regarded the Apocalypse as the work of an inspired man but not of an Apostle (Eusebius, Church History VII.25). [25]

Eusebius, in his Church History (c. 330 AD) mentioned that the Apocalypse of John was accepted as a Canonical book and rejected at the same time:

  • 1. ... it is proper to sum up the writings of the New Testament which have been already mentioned... After them is to be placed, if it really seem proper, the Apocalypse of John, concerning which we shall give the different opinions at the proper time. These then belong among the accepted writings [Homologoumena].
  • 4. Among the rejected [Kirsopp. Lake translation: "not genuine"] writings must be reckoned, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books. [26]

The Apocalypse of John, also called Revelation, is counted as both accepted (Kirsopp. Lake translation: "Recognized") and disputed, which has caused some confusion over what exactly Eusebius meant by doing so. The disputation can perhaps be attributed to Origen. [27] Origen seems to have accepted it in his writings. [28]

Cyril of Jerusalem (348 AD) does not name it among the canonical books (Catechesis IV.33–36). [29]

Athanasius (367 AD) in his Letter 39, [30] Augustine of Hippo (c. 397 AD) in his book On Christian Doctrine (Book II, Chapter 8), [31] Tyrannius Rufinus (c. 400 AD) in his Commentary on the Apostles' Creed, [32] Pope Innocent I (405 AD) in a letter to the bishop of Toulouse [33] and John of Damascus (about 730 AD) in his work An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (Book IV:7) [34] listed "the Revelation of John the Evangelist" as a canonical book.


The Council of Laodicea (363) omits it as a canonical book. [35]

The Decretum Gelasianum , which is a work written by an anonymous scholar between 519 and 553, contains a list of books of scripture presented as having been reckoned as canonical by the Council of Rome (382 AD). This list mentions it as a part of the New Testament canon. [36]

The Synod of Hippo (in 393), [37] followed by the Council of Carthage (397), the Council of Carthage (419), the Council of Florence (1442 AD) [38] and the Council of Trent (1546 AD) [39] classified it as a canonical book. [40]

The Apostolic Canons, approved by the Eastern Orthodox Council in Trullo in 692, but rejected by Pope Sergius I, omit it. [41]

Protestant Reformation

Doubts resurfaced during the 16th-century Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther called Revelation "neither apostolic nor prophetic" in the 1522 preface to his translation of the New Testament (he revised his position with a much more favorable assessment in 1530), Huldrych Zwingli labelled it "not a book of the Bible", [42] and it was the only New Testament book on which John Calvin did not write a commentary. [43] As of 2015 Revelation remains the only New Testament book not read in the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church, [44] though Catholic and Protestant liturgies include it.[ citation needed ]

Texts and manuscripts

There are approximately 300 Greek manuscripts of Revelation. [45] While the Codex Vaticanus does not include it, the other major manuscripts that do are the Codex Sinaiticus (4th century), Codex Alexandrinus (5th century), and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (5th century). In addition, there are numerous papyri, especially that of 47 (3rd century); the minuscules (8th to 10th century), plus fragmentary quotations in the Church fathers of the 2nd to 5th centuries and the 6th-century Greek commentary on Revelation by Andreas. [46]

Structure and content

The Apocalypse of St. Sever, circa 1150 Beatus-tafel.jpg
The Apocalypse of St. Sever, circa 1150
The Angel Appears to John. 13th-century manuscript. British Library, London. BritLibAddMS35166ApocalypseFolio003rAngelApeardToJohn.jpg
The Angel Appears to John. 13th-century manuscript. British Library, London.
The angel gives John the letter to the churches of Asia, Beatus Escorial, circa 950. B Escorial a.jpg
The angel gives John the letter to the churches of Asia, Beatus Escorial, circa 950.

Literary structure

Divisions in the book seem to be marked by the repetition of key phrases, by the arrangement of subject matter into blocks, and associated with its Christological passages, [47] and much use is made of significant numbers, especially the number seven, which represented perfection according to ancient numerology. [48] Nevertheless, there is a "complete lack of consensus" among scholars about the structure of Revelation. [49] The following is therefore an outline of the book's contents rather than of its structure.


Revelation 6.2: And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. White Rider from Tolkovy Apocalyps, Moscow, 17th century White Rider from Tolkovy Apocalyps 17th century.jpg
Revelation 6.2: And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. White Rider from Tolkovy Apocalyps, Moscow, 17th century
Apocalypse 7, the 144,000 elect. Beatus d'Osma, 11th century B Osma 92v.jpg
Apocalypse 7, the 144,000 elect. Beatus d'Osma, 11th century
The Fourth Angel sounds his trumpet, Apocalypse 8. Beatus Escorial, circa 950. B Escorial 94v.jpg
The Fourth Angel sounds his trumpet, Apocalypse 8. Beatus Escorial, circa 950.
Apocalypse 12, the Woman and the Dragon. Beatus d'Osma, 11th century B Osma 117v.jpg
Apocalypse 12, the Woman and the Dragon. Beatus d'Osma, 11th century
A seven-headed leopard-like beast, Apocalypse 13, Beatus Escorial B Escorial 108v.jpg
A seven-headed leopard-like beast, Apocalypse 13, Beatus Escorial
An 1880 Baxter process colour plate illustrating Revelation 22:17 by Joseph Martin Kronheim Joseph Martin Kronheim - The Sunday at Home 1880 - Revelation 22-17.jpg
An 1880 Baxter process colour plate illustrating Revelation 22:17 by Joseph Martin Kronheim
"Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe." (14:15), Escorial Beatus B Escorial 120.jpg
"Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe." (14:15), Escorial Beatus
The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun (Rev. 12 1-4) - William Blake Brooklyn Museum Brooklyn Museum - The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun (Rev. 12 1-4) - William Blake.jpg
The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun (Rev. 12 1–4) – William Blake Brooklyn Museum
  1. The Revelation of Jesus Christ
    1. The Revelation of Jesus Christ is communicated to John of Patmos through prophetic visions. (1:1–9)
    2. John is instructed by the "one like a son of man" to write all that he hears and sees, from the prophetic visions, to Seven churches of Asia. (1:10–13)
    3. The appearance of the "one like a son of man" is given, and he reveals what the seven stars and seven lampstands represent. (1:14–20)
  2. Messages for seven churches of Asia
    1. Ephesus: From this church, those "who overcome are granted to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." (2:1–7)
      1. Praised for not bearing those who are evil, testing those who say they are apostles and are not, and finding them to be liars; hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans; having persevered and possessing patience.
      2. Admonished to "do the first works" and to repent for having left their "first love."
    2. Smyrna: From this church, those who are faithful until death, will be given "the crown of life." Those who overcome shall not be hurt by the second death. (2:8–11)
      1. Praised for being "rich" while impoverished and in tribulation.
      2. Admonished not to fear the "synagogue of Satan", nor fear a ten-day tribulation of being thrown into prison.
    3. Pergamum: From this church, those who overcome will be given the hidden manna to eat and a white stone with a secret name on it." (2:12–17)
      1. Praised for holding "fast to My name", not denying "My faith" even in the days of Antipas, "My faithful martyr."
      2. Admonished to repent for having held the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel; eating things sacrificed to idols, committing sexual immorality, and holding the "doctrine of the Nicolaitans."
    4. Thyatira: From this church, those who overcome until the end, will be given power over the nations in order to dash them to pieces with the rule of a rod of iron; they will also be given the "morning star." (2:18–29)
      1. Praised for their works, love, service, faith, and patience.
      2. Admonished to repent for allowing a "prophetess" to promote sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
    5. Sardis: From this church, those who overcome will be clothed in white garments, and their names will not be blotted out from the Book of Life; their names will also be confessed before the Father and His angels. (3:1–6)
      1. Admonished to be watchful and to strengthen since their works have not been perfect before God.
    6. Philadelphia: From this church, those who overcome will be made a pillar in the temple of God having the name of God, the name of the city of God, "New Jerusalem", and the Son of God's new name. (3:7–13)
      1. Praised for having some strength, keeping "My word", and having not denied "My name."
      2. Reminded to hold fast what they have, that no one may take their crown.
    7. Laodicea: From this church, those who overcome will be granted the opportunity to sit with the Son of God on His throne. (3:14–22)
      1. Admonished to be zealous and repent from being "lukewarm"; they are instructed to buy the "gold refined in the fire", that they may be rich; to buy "white garments", that they may be clothed, so that the shame of their nakedness would not be revealed; to anoint their eyes with eye salve, that they may see.
  3. Before the Throne of God
    1. The Throne of God appears, surrounded by twenty four thrones with Twenty-four elders seated in them. (4:1–5)
    2. The four living creatures are introduced. (4:6–11)
    3. A scroll, with seven seals, is presented and it is declared that the Lion of the tribe of Judah, from the "Root of David", is the only one that will be worthy to open this scroll in the future (5:1–5) [50]
    4. When the "Lamb having seven horns and seven eyes" took the scroll, the creatures of heaven fell down before the Lamb to give him praise, joined by myriads of angels and the creatures of the earth. (5:6–14)
  4. Seven Seals are opened
    1. First Seal: A white horse appears, whose crowned rider has a bow with which to conquer. (6:1–2)
    2. Second Seal: A red horse appears, whose rider is granted a "great sword" to take peace from the earth. (6:3–4)
    3. Third Seal: A black horse appears, whose rider has "a pair of balances in his hand", where a voice then says, "A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and [see] thou hurt not the oil and the wine." (6:5–6)
    4. Fourth Seal: A pale horse appears, whose rider is Death, and Hades follows him. Death is granted a fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and with the beasts of the earth. (6:7–8)
    5. Fifth Seal: "Under the altar", appeared the souls of martyrs for the "word of God", who cry out for vengeance. They are given white robes and told to rest until the martyrdom of their brothers is completed. (6:9–11)
    6. Sixth Seal: (6:12–17)
      1. There occurs a great earthquake where "the sun becomes black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon like blood" (6:12).
      2. The stars of heaven fall to the earth and the sky recedes like a scroll being rolled up (6:13–14).
      3. Every mountain and island is moved out of place (6:14).
      4. The people of earth retreat to caves in the mountains (6:15).
      5. The survivors call upon the mountains and the rocks to fall on them, so as to hide them from the "wrath of the Lamb" (6:16).
    7. Interlude: The 144,000 Hebrews are sealed.
      1. 144,000 from the Twelve Tribes of Israel are sealed as servants of God on their foreheads (7:1–8)
      2. A great multitude stand before the Throne of God, who come out of the Great Tribulation, clothed with robes made "white in the blood of the Lamb" and having palm branches in their hands. (7:9–17)
    8. Seventh Seal: Introduces the seven trumpets (8:1–5)
      1. "Silence in heaven for about half an hour" (8:1).
      2. Seven angels are each given trumpets (8:2).
      3. An eighth angel takes a "golden censer", filled with fire from the heavenly altar, and throws it to the earth (8:3–5). What follows are "peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake" (8:5).
      4. After the eighth angel has devastated the earth, the seven angels introduced in verse 2 prepare to sound their trumpets (8:6).
  5. Seven trumpets are sounded (Seen in Chapters 8, 9, and 12).
    1. First Trumpet: Hail and fire, mingled with blood, are thrown to the earth burning up a third of the trees and green grass. (8:6–7)
    2. Second Trumpet: Something that resembles a great mountain, burning with fire, falls from the sky and lands in the ocean. It kills a third of the sea creatures and destroys a third of the ships at sea. (8:8–9)
    3. Third Trumpet: A great star, named Wormwood, falls from heaven and poisons a third of the rivers and springs of water. (8:10–11)
    4. Fourth Trumpet: A third of the sun, the moon, and the stars are darkened creating complete darkness for a third of the day and the night. (8:12–13)
    5. Fifth Trumpet: The First Woe (9:1–12)
      1. A "star" falls from the sky (9:1).
      2. This "star" is given "the key to the bottomless pit" (9:1).
      3. The "star" then opens the bottomless pit. When this happens, "smoke [rises] from [the Abyss] like smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky [are] darkened by the smoke from the Abyss" (9:2).
      4. From out of the smoke, locusts who are "given power like that of scorpions of the earth" (9:3), who are commanded not to harm anyone or anything except for people who were not given the "seal of God" on their foreheads (from chapter 7) (9:4).
      5. The "locusts" are described as having a human appearance (faces and hair) but with lion's teeth, and wearing "breastplates of iron"; the sound of their wings resembles "the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle" (9:7–9).
    6. Sixth Trumpet: The Second Woe (9:13–21)
      1. The four angels bound to the great river Euphrates are released to prepare two hundred million horsemen.
      2. These armies kill a third of mankind by plagues of fire, smoke, and brimstone.
    7. Interlude: The little scroll. (10:1–11)
      1. An angel appears, with one foot on the sea and one foot on the land, having an opened little book in his hand.
      2. Upon the cry of the angel, seven thunders utter mysteries and secrets that are not to be written down by John.
      3. John is instructed to eat the little scroll that happens to be sweet in his mouth, but bitter in his stomach, and to prophesy.
      4. John is given a measuring rod to measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.
      5. Outside the temple, at the court of the holy city, it is trod by the nations for forty-two months (3 1/2 years).
      6. Two witnesses prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. (11:1–14)
    8. Seventh Trumpet: The Third Woe that leads into the seven bowls (11:15–19)
      1. The temple of God opens in heaven, where the ark of His covenant can be seen. There are lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.
  6. The Seven Spiritual Figures. (Events leading into the Third Woe)
    1. A Woman "clothed with a white robe, with the sun at her back, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" is in pregnancy with a male child. (12:1–2)
    2. A great Dragon (with seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns on his heads) drags a third of the stars of Heaven with his tail, and throws them to the Earth. (12:3–4). The Dragon waits for the birth of the child so he can devour it. However, sometime after the child is born, he is caught up to God's throne while the Woman flees into the wilderness into her place prepared of God that they should feed her there for 1,260 days (3½ years). (12:5–6). War breaks out in heaven between Michael and the Dragon, identified as that old Serpent, the Devil, or Satan (12:9). After a great fight, the Dragon and his angels are cast out of Heaven for good, followed by praises of victory for God's kingdom. (12:7–12). The Dragon engages to persecute the Woman, but she is given aid to evade him. Her evasiveness enrages the Dragon, prompting him to wage war against the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (12:13–17)
    3. A Beast (with seven heads, ten horns, and ten crowns on his horns and on his heads names of blasphemy) emerges from the Sea, having one mortally wounded head that is then healed. The people of the world wonder and follow the Beast. The Dragon grants him power and authority for forty-two months. (13:1–5)
    4. The Beast of the Sea blasphemes God's name (along with God's tabernacle and His kingdom and all who dwell in Heaven), wages war against the Saints, and overcomes them. (13:6–10)
    5. Then, a Beast emerges from the Earth having two horns like a lamb, speaking like a dragon. He directs people to make an image of the Beast of the Sea who was wounded yet lives, breathing life into it, and forcing all people to bear "the mark of the Beast", "666". Events leading into the Third Woe:
    6. The Lamb stands on Mount Zion with the 144,000 "first fruits" who are redeemed from Earth and victorious over the Beast and his mark and image. (14:1–5)
      1. The proclamations of three angels. (14:6–13)
      2. One like the Son of Man reaps the earth. (14:14–16)
      3. A second angel reaps "the vine of the Earth" and throws it into "the great winepress of the wrath of God... and blood came out of the winepress... up to one thousand six hundred stadia." (14:17–20)
      4. The temple of the tabernacle, in Heaven, is opened(15:1–5), beginning the "Seven Bowls" revelation.
      5. Seven angels are given a golden bowl, from the Four Living Creatures, that contains the seven last plagues bearing the wrath of God. (15:6–8)
  7. Seven bowls are poured onto Earth:
    1. First Bowl: A "foul and malignant sore" afflicts the followers of the Beast. (16:1–2)
    2. Second Bowl: The Sea turns to blood and everything within it dies. (16:3)
    3. Third Bowl: All fresh water turns to blood. (16:4–7)
    4. Fourth Bowl: The Sun scorches the Earth with intense heat and even burns some people with fire. (16:8–9)
    5. Fifth Bowl: There is total darkness and great pain in the Beast's kingdom. (16:10–11)
    6. Sixth Bowl: The Great River Euphrates is dried up and preparations are made for the kings of the East and the final battle at Armageddon between the forces of good and evil. (16:12–16)
    7. Seventh Bowl: A great earthquake and heavy hailstorm: "every island fled away and the mountains were not found." (16:17–21)
  8. Aftermath: Vision of John given by "an angel who had the seven bowls"
    1. The great Harlot who sits on a scarlet Beast (with seven heads and ten horns and names of blasphemy all over its body) and by many waters: Babylon the Great. The angel showing John the vision of the Harlot and the scarlet Beast reveals their identities and fates (17:1–18)
    2. New Babylon is destroyed. (18:1–8)
    3. The people of the Earth (the kings, merchants, sailors, etc.) mourn New Babylon's destruction. (18:9–19)
    4. The permanence of New Babylon's destruction. (18:20–24)
  9. The Marriage Supper of the Lamb
    1. A great multitude praises God. (19:1–6)
    2. The marriage Supper of the Lamb. (19:7–10)
  10. The Judgment of the two Beasts, the Dragon, and the Dead (19:11–20:15)
    1. The Beast and the False Prophet are cast into the Lake of Fire. (19:11–21)
    2. The Dragon is imprisoned in the Bottomless Pit for a thousand years. (20:1–3)
    3. The resurrected martyrs live and reign with Christ for a thousand years. (20:4–6)
    4. After the Thousand Years
      1. The Dragon is released and goes out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the Earth—Gog and Magog—and gathers them for battle at the holy city. The Dragon makes war against the people of God, but is defeated. (20:7–9)
      2. The Dragon is cast into the Lake of Fire with the Beast and the False Prophet. (20:10)
      3. The Last Judgment: the wicked, along with Death and Hades, are cast into the Lake of Fire, which is the second death. (20:11–15)
  11. The New Heaven and Earth, and New Jerusalem
    1. A "new heaven" and "new earth" replace the old heaven and old earth. There is no more suffering or death. (21:1–8)
    2. God comes to dwell with humanity in the New Jerusalem. (21:2–8)
    3. Description of the New Jerusalem. (21:9–27)
    4. The River of Life and the Tree of Life appear for the healing of the nations and peoples. The curse of sin is ended. (22:1–5)
  12. Conclusion
    1. Christ's reassurance that his coming is imminent. Final admonitions. (22:6–21)


Revelation has a wide variety of interpretations, ranging from the simple historical interpretation, to a prophetic view on what will happen in the future by way of the Will of God and the Woman's victory on Satan ("symbolic interpretation"), to different end time scenarios ("futurist interpretation"), [51] [52] to the views of critics who deny any spiritual value to Revelation at all, [53] ascribing it to a human-inherited archetype.


Paschal liturgical

This interpretation, which has found expression among both Catholic and Protestant theologians, considers the liturgical worship, particularly the Easter rites, of early Christianity as background and context for understanding the Book of Revelation's structure and significance. This perspective is explained in The Paschal Liturgy and the Apocalypse (new edition, 2004) by Massey H. Shepherd, an Episcopal scholar, and in Scott Hahn's The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth (1999), in which he states that Revelation in form is structured after creation, fall, judgment and redemption. Those who hold this view say that the Temple's destruction (AD 70) had a profound effect on the Jewish people, not only in Jerusalem but among the Greek-speaking Jews of the Mediterranean. [54]

They believe the Book of Revelation provides insight into the early Eucharist, saying that it is the new Temple worship in the New Heaven and Earth. The idea of the Eucharist as a foretaste of the heavenly banquet is also explored by British Methodist Geoffrey Wainwright in his book Eucharist and Eschatology (Oxford University Press, 1980). According to Pope Benedict XVI some of the images of Revelation should be understood in the context of the dramatic suffering and persecution of the churches of Asia in the 1st century.[ citation needed ]

Accordingly, the Book of Revelation should not be read as an enigmatic warning, but as an encouraging vision of Christ's definitive victory over evil. [55]

Oriental Orthodox

In the Coptic Orthodox Church the whole Book of Revelation is read during Apocalypse Night or Good Friday. [56]


Most Christian interpretations fall into one or more of the following categories:

Eastern Orthodox

An Orthodox icon of the Apocalypse of St. John, 16th century. Apokalipsis XVI.jpg
An Orthodox icon of the Apocalypse of St. John, 16th century.

Eastern Orthodoxy treats the text as simultaneously describing contemporaneous events (events occurring at the same time) and as prophecy of events to come, for which the contemporaneous events were a form of foreshadow. It rejects attempts to determine, before the fact, if the events of Revelation are occurring by mapping them onto present-day events, taking to heart the Scriptural warning against those who proclaim "He is here!" prematurely. Instead, the book is seen as a warning to be spiritually and morally ready for the end times, whenever they may come ("as a thief in the night"), but they will come at the time of God's choosing, not something that can be precipitated nor trivially deduced by mortals. [57] This view is also held by many Catholics, although there is a diversity of opinion about the nature of the Apocalypse within Catholicism.[ citation needed ]

Book of Revelation is the only book of the New Testament that is not read during services by the Byzantine Rite Churches although in the Western Rite Orthodox Parishes, which are under the same bishops as the Byzantine Rite, it is read.


The early Protestants followed a historicist interpretation of the Bible, which identified the Pope as the Antichrist.

Seventh-day Adventist

Similar to the early Protestants, Adventists maintain a historicist interpretation of the Bible's predictions of the apocalypse. [58]

Seventh-day Adventists believe the Book of Revelation is especially relevant to believers in the days preceding the second coming of Jesus Christ. "The universal church is composed of all who truly believe in Christ, but in the last days, a time of widespread apostasy, a remnant has been called out to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." [59] "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." [60] As participatory agents in the work of salvation for all humankind, "This remnant announces the arrival of the judgment hour, proclaims salvation through Christ, and heralds the approach of His second advent." [61] The three angels of Revelation 14 represent the people who accept the light of God's messages and go forth as His agents to sound the warning throughout the length and breadth of the earth. [62]

Bahá'í Faith

By the analogous reasoning between the Millerite historicism, and Baha'u'llah's doctrine of progressive revelation, a modified historicist method of interpreting prophecy have become integrated in foremost American Bahá'í teachings. [63]

`Abdu'l-Bahá has given some interpretations about the 11th and 12th chapters of Revelation in Some Answered Questions . [64] [65] The 1,260 days spoken of in the forms: one thousand two hundred and sixty days, [66] forty-two months, [67] refers to the 1,260 years in the Islamic Calendar (AH 1260 or 1844 AD). The "two witnesses" spoken of are Muhammad and Ali. [68] Also, the Bible reads, "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads". [69] The seven heads of the dragon are symbolic of the seven provinces dominated by the Umayyads: Damascus, Persia, Arabia, Egypt, Africa, Andalusia, and Transoxania. The ten horns represent the ten names of the leaders of the Umayyad dynasty: Abu Sufyan, Muawiya, Yazid, Marwan, Abd al-Malik, Walid, Sulayman, Umar, Hisham, and Ibrahim. Some names were re-used, as in the case of Yazid II and Yazid III and the like, which were not counted for this interpretation. [70]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Book of Mormon states that John the Apostle is the author of Revelation and that he was foreordained by God to write it. [71] [ non-primary source needed ]

Doctrine and Covenants, section 77, postulates answers to specific questions regarding the symbolism contained in the Book of Revelation. [72] [ non-primary source needed ] Topics include: the sea of glass, the four beasts and their appearance, the 24 elders, the book with seven seals, certain angels, the sealing of the 144,000, the little book eaten by John, and the two witnesses in Chapter 11.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that the warning contained in Revelation 22:18–19 [73] does not refer to the biblical canon as a whole. [74] Rather, an open and ongoing dialogue between God and the modern-day Prophet and Apostles of the LDS faith constitute an open canon of scripture. [72] [75]


Christian Gnostics, however, are unlikely to be attracted to the teaching of Revelation because the doctrine of salvation through the sacrificed Lamb, which is central to Revelation, is repugnant to Gnostics. Christian Gnostics "believed in the Forgiveness of Sins, but in no vicarious sacrifice for sin ... they accepted Christ in the full realisation of the word; his life, not his death, was the keynote of their doctrine and their practice." [76]

James Morgan Pryse was an esoteric gnostic who saw Revelation as a western version of the Hindu theory of the Chakra. He began his work, "The purpose of this book is to show that the Apocalypse is a manual of spiritual development and not, as conventionally interpreted, a cryptic history or prophecy." [77] Such diverse theories have failed to command widespread acceptance. But Christopher Rowland argues: "there are always going to be loose threads which refuse to be woven into the fabric as a whole. The presence of the threads which stubbornly refuse to be incorporated into the neat tapestry of our world-view does not usually totally undermine that view." [78]

Radical discipleship

The radical discipleship interpretation asserts that the Book of Revelation is best understood as a handbook for radical discipleship; i. e., how to remain faithful to the spirit and teachings of Jesus and avoid simply assimilating to surrounding society. In this interpretation the primary agenda of the book is to expose as impostors the worldly powers that seek to oppose the ways of God and God's Kingdom.[ citation needed ] The chief temptation for Christians in the 1st century, and today, is to fail to hold fast to the non-violent teachings and example of Jesus and instead be lured into unquestioning adoption and assimilation of worldly, national or cultural values – imperialism, nationalism, and civil religion being the most dangerous and insidious.[ citation needed ]

This perspective (closely related to liberation theology) draws on the approach of Bible scholars such as Ched Myers, William Stringfellow, Richard Horsley, Daniel Berrigan, Wes Howard-Brook, [79] and Joerg Rieger. [80] Various Christian anarchists, such as Jacques Ellul, have identified the State and political power as the Beast [81] and the events described, being their doings and results, the aforementioned ‘wrath’.

Aesthetic and literary

Many literary writers and theorists have contributed to a wide range of theories about the origins and purpose of the Book of Revelation. Some of these writers have no connection with established Christian faiths but, nevertheless, found in Revelation a source of inspiration. Revelation has been approached from Hindu philosophy and Jewish Midrash. Others have pointed to aspects of composition which have been ignored such as the similarities of prophetic inspiration to modern poetic inspiration, or the parallels with Greek drama. In recent years, theories have arisen which concentrate upon how readers and texts interact to create meaning and which are less interested in what the original author intended.[ citation needed ]

Charles Cutler Torrey taught Semitic languages at Yale University. His lasting contribution has been to show how much more meaningful prophets, such as the scribe of Revelation, are when treated as poets first and foremost. He thought this was a point often lost sight of because most English bibles render everything in prose. [82] Poetry was also the reason John never directly quoted the older prophets. Had he done so, he would have had to use their (Hebrew) poetry whereas he wanted to write his own. Torrey insisted Revelation had originally been written in Aramaic. [83]

This was why the surviving Greek translation was written in such a strange idiom. It was a literal translation that had to comply with the warning at Revelation 22:18 that the text must not be corrupted in any way. According to Torrey, the story is that "The Fourth Gospel was brought to Ephesus by a Christian fugitive from Palestine soon after the middle of the first century. It was written in Aramaic." Later, the Ephesians claimed this fugitive had actually been the beloved disciple himself. Subsequently, this John was banished by Nero and died on Patmos after writing Revelation. Torrey argued that until AD 80, when Christians were expelled from the synagogues, [84] the Christian message was always first heard in the synagogue and, for cultural reasons, the evangelist would have spoken in Aramaic, else "he would have had no hearing." [85] Torrey showed how the three major songs in Revelation (the new song, the song of Moses and the Lamb and the chorus at 19: 6–8) each fall naturally into four regular metrical lines plus a coda. [86] Other dramatic moments in Revelation, such as 6:16 where the terrified people cry out to be hidden, behave in a similar way. [87]

Christina Rossetti was a Victorian poet who believed the sensual excitement of the natural world found its meaningful purpose in death and in God. [88] Her The Face of the Deep is a meditation upon the Apocalypse. In her view, what Revelation has to teach is patience. [89] Patience is the closest to perfection the human condition allows. [90] Her book, which is largely written in prose, frequently breaks into poetry or jubilation, much like Revelation itself. The relevance of John's visions [91] belongs to Christians of all times as a continuous present meditation. Such matters are eternal and outside of normal human reckoning. "That winter which will be the death of Time has no promise of termination. Winter that returns not to spring ... – who can bear it?" [92] She dealt deftly with the vengeful aspects of John's message. "A few are charged to do judgment; everyone without exception is charged to show mercy." [93] Her conclusion is that Christians should see John as "representative of all his brethren" so they should "hope as he hoped, love as he loved." [94]

Recently, aesthetic and literary modes of interpretation have developed, which focus on Revelation as a work of art and imagination, viewing the imagery as symbolic depictions of timeless truths and the victory of good over evil. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza wrote Revelation: Vision of a Just World from the viewpoint of rhetoric. [95] Accordingly, Revelation's meaning is partially determined by the way John goes about saying things, partially by the context in which readers receive the message and partially by its appeal to something beyond logic. [96]

Professor Schüssler Fiorenza believes that Revelation has particular relevance today as a liberating message to disadvantaged groups. John's book is a vision of a just world, not a vengeful threat of world-destruction. Her view that Revelation's message is not gender-based has caused dissent. She says we are to look behind the symbols rather than make a fetish out of them. In contrast, Tina Pippin states that John writes "horror literature" and "the misogyny which underlies the narrative is extreme." [96]

D. H. Lawrence took an opposing, pessimistic view of Revelation in the final book he wrote, Apocalypse. [97] He saw the language which Revelation used as being bleak and destructive; a 'death-product'. Instead, he wanted to champion a public-spirited individualism (which he identified with the historical Jesus supplemented by an ill-defined cosmic consciousness) against its two natural enemies. One of these he called "the sovereignty of the intellect" [98] which he saw in a technology-based totalitarian society. The other enemy he styled "vulgarity" [99] and that was what he found in Revelation. "It is very nice if you are poor and not humble ... to bring your enemies down to utter destruction, while you yourself rise up to grandeur. And nowhere does this happen so splendiferously than in Revelation." [100]

His specific aesthetic objections to Revelation were that its imagery was unnatural and that phrases like "the wrath of the Lamb" were "ridiculous." He saw Revelation as comprising two discordant halves. In the first, there was a scheme of cosmic renewal in "great Chaldean sky-spaces", which he quite liked. After that, Lawrence thought, the book became preoccupied with the birth of the baby messiah and "flamboyant hate and simple lust ... for the end of the world." Lawrence coined the term "Patmossers" to describe those Christians who could only be happy in paradise if they knew their enemies were suffering in hell. [101]


Modern biblical scholarship attempts to understand Revelation in its 1st-century historical context within the genre of Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature. [102] This approach considers the text as an address to seven historical communities in Asia Minor. Under this interpretation, assertions that "the time is near" are to be taken literally by those communities. Consequently, the work is viewed as a warning to not conform to contemporary Greco-Roman society which John "unveils" as beastly, demonic, and subject to divine judgment. [102]

New Testament narrative criticism also places Revelation in its first century historical context but approaches the book from a literary perspective. [103] For example, narrative critics examine characters and characterization, literary devices, settings, plot, themes, point of view, implied reader, implied author, and other constitutive features of narratives in their analysis of the book.

Although the acceptance of Revelation into the canon has from the beginning been controversial, it has been essentially similar to the career of other texts. [104] The eventual exclusion of other contemporary apocalyptic literature from the canon may throw light on the unfolding historical processes of what was officially considered orthodox, what was heterodox, and what was even heretical. [104] Interpretation of meanings and imagery are anchored in what the historical author intended and what his contemporary audience inferred; a message to Christians not to assimilate into the Roman imperial culture was John's central message. [102] Thus, his letter (written in the apocalyptic genre) is pastoral in nature (its purpose is offering hope to the downtrodden), [105] and the symbolism of Revelation is to be understood entirely within its historical, literary, and social context. [105] Critics study the conventions of apocalyptic literature and events of the 1st century to make sense of what the author may have intended. [105]

Scholar Barbara Whitlock pointed out a similarity between the consistent destruction of thirds depicted in the Book of Revelation (a third of mankind by plagues of fire, smoke, and brimstone, a third of the trees and green grass, a third of the sea creatures and a third of the ships at sea, etc.) and the Iranian mythology evil character Zahhak or Dahāg, depicted in the Avesta, the earliest religious texts of Zoroastrianism. Dahāg is mentioned as wreaking much evil in the world until at last chained up and imprisoned on the mythical Mt. Damāvand. The Middle Persian sources prophesy that at the end of the world, Dahāg will at last burst his bonds and ravage the world, consuming one in three humans and livestock, until the ancient hero Kirsāsp returns to life to kill Dahāg. Whitlock wrote: "Zoroastrianism, the state religion of the Roman Empire's main rival, was part of the intellectual millieu in which Christianity came into being, just as were Judaism, the Greek-Roman religion, and the worship of Isis and Mithras. A Zoroastrian influence is completely plausible". [106]

Old Testament origins

Much of Revelation employs ancient sources, primarily but not exclusively from the Old Testament. For example, Howard-Brook and Gwyther [107] regard the Book of Enoch (1 Enoch) as an equally significant but contextually different source. "Enoch's journey has no close parallel in the Hebrew scriptures." Revelation, in one section, forms an inverted parallel (chiasmus) with the book of Enoch in which 1 En 100:1–3 has a river of blood deep enough to submerge a chariot and in Rev 14:20 has a river of blood up to the horse's bridle. There is an angel ascending in both accounts (1 En 100:4; Rev 14:14–19) and both accounts have three messages (1 En 100:7–9; Rev 14:6–12). [108] [ unreliable source? ]

Academics showed little interest in this topic until recently. [109] This was not, however, the case with popular writers from non-conforming backgrounds, who interspersed the text of Revelation with the prophecy they thought was being promised. For example, an anonymous Scottish commentary of 1871 [110] prefaces Revelation 4 with the Little Apocalypse of Mark 13, places Malachi 4:5 ("Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord") within Revelation 11 and writes Revelation 12:7 side-by-side with the role of "the Satan" in the Book of Job. The message is that everything in Revelation will happen in its previously appointed time.[ citation needed ]

Steve Moyise uses the index of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament to show that "Revelation contains more Old Testament allusions than any other New Testament book, but it does not record a single quotation." [111] Perhaps significantly, Revelation chooses different sources than other New Testament books. Revelation concentrates on Isaiah, Psalms, and Ezekiel, while neglecting, comparatively speaking, the books of the Pentateuch that are the dominant sources for other New Testament writers. Methodological objections have been made to this course as each allusion may not have an equal significance. To counter this, G. K. Beale sought to develop a system that distinguished 'clear', 'probable', and 'possible' allusions. A clear allusion is one with almost the same wording as its source, the same general meaning, and which could not reasonably have been drawn from elsewhere. A probable allusion contains an idea which is uniquely traceable to its source. Possible allusions are described as mere echoes of their putative sources.[ citation needed ]

Yet, with Revelation, the problems might be judged more fundamental. The author seems to be using his sources in a completely different way to the originals. For example, he borrows the 'new temple' imagery of Ezekiel 40–48 but uses it to describe a New Jerusalem which, quite pointedly, no longer needs a temple because it is God's dwelling. Ian Boxall [112] writes that Revelation "is no montage of biblical quotations (that is not John's way) but a wealth of allusions and evocations rewoven into something new and creative." In trying to identify this "something new", Boxall argues that Ezekiel provides the 'backbone' for Revelation. He sets out a comparative table listing the chapters of Revelation in sequence and linking most of them to the structurally corresponding chapter in Ezekiel. The interesting point is that the order is not the same. John, on this theory, rearranges Ezekiel to suit his own purposes.[ citation needed ]

Some commentators argue that it is these purposes – and not the structure – that really matter. G. K. Beale believes that, however much John makes use of Ezekiel, his ultimate purpose is to present Revelation as a fulfillment of Daniel 7. [113] Richard Bauckham has argued that John presents an early view of the Trinity through his descriptions of the visions and his identifying Jesus and the Holy Spirit with YHWH. [114] Brandon Smith has expanded on both of their proposals while proposing a "trinitarian reading" of Revelation, arguing that John uses Old Testament language and allusions from various sources to describe a multiplicity of persons in YHWH without sacrificing monotheism, which would later be codified in the trinitarian doctrine of Nicene Christianity. [115]

One theory, Revelation Draft Hypothesis, sees the book of Revelation constructed by forming parallels with several texts in the Old Testament such as Ezekiel, Isaiah, Zechariah, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Exodus, and Daniel. For example, Ezekiel's encounter with God is in reverse order as John's encounter with God (Ezek 1:5–28; Rev 4:2–7; note both accounts have beings with faces of a lion, ox or calf, man, and eagle (Ezek 1:10; Rev 4:7), both accounts have an expanse before the throne (Ezek 1:22; Rev 4:6). The chariot's horses in Zechariah's are the same colors as the four horses in Revelation (Zech 6:1–8; Rev 6:1–8). The nesting of the seven marches around Jericho by Joshua is reenacted by Jesus nesting the seven trumpets within the seventh seal (Josh 6:8–10; Rev 6:1–17; 8:1–9:21; 11:15–19). The description of the beast in Revelation is taken directly out of Daniel (see Dan 7:2–8; Rev 13:1–7). The method that John used allowed him to use the Hebrew Scriptures as the source and also use basic techniques of parallel formation, thereby alluding to the Hebrew Scriptures. [108] [ unreliable source? ] [116] [ unreliable source? ]

Figures in Revelation

In order of appearance:

  1. John of Patmos
  2. The angel who reveals the Revelation of Jesus Christ
  3. The One who sits on the Throne
  4. Twenty-four crowned elders
  5. Four living creatures
  6. The Lion of Judah who is the seven horned Lamb with seven eyes
  7. Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
  8. the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God, each given a white robe
  9. Four angels holding the four winds of the Earth
  10. The seal-bearer angel (144,000 of Israel sealed)
  11. A great multitude from every nation
  12. Seven angelic trumpeters
  13. The star called Wormwood
  14. Angel of Woe
  15. Scorpion-tailed Locusts
  16. Abaddon
  17. Four angels bound to the great river Euphrates
  18. Two hundred million lion-headed cavalry
  19. The mighty angel of Seven thunders
  20. The Two witnesses
  21. Beast of the Sea having seven heads and ten horns
  22. The woman and her child
  23. The Dragon, fiery red with seven heads
  24. Saint Michael the Archangel
  25. Lamb-horned Beast of the Earth
  26. Image of the Beast of the sea
  27. Messages of the three angels
  28. The angelic reapers and the grapes of wrath
  29. Seven plague angels
  30. Seven bowls of wrath
  31. The False Prophet
  32. Whore of Babylon
  33. The rider on a white horse
  34. The first resurrection and the thousand years
  35. Gog and Magog
  36. Death and Hades

See also


  1. Other apocalypses popular in the early Christian era did not achieve canonical status, except 2 Esdras (also known as the Apocalypse of Ezra), which is recognized as canonical in the Ethiopian Orthodox Churches.

Related Research Articles

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse figures, described in Book of Revelation 6:1–8; 4 beings on white, red, black and pale horses that appear after the Lamb of God opens the first 4 of the 7 seals; commonly interpreted as Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are described in the last book of the New Testament of the Bible, the Book of Revelation by John of Patmos, at 6:1–8. The chapter tells of a book or scroll in God's right hand that is sealed with seven seals. The Lamb of God opens the first four of the seven seals, which summons four beings that ride out on white, red, black, and pale horses.

Whore of Babylon New Testament symbol

The Whore of Babylon or Babylon the Great is a symbolic female figure and also place of evil mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. Her full title is stated in Revelation 17 as Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the Earth.

Wormwood is a star or angel that appears in the Book of Revelation.

Seventh-day Adventist eschatology

The Seventh-day Adventist Church holds a unique system of eschatological beliefs. Adventist eschatology, which is based on a historicist interpretation of prophecy, is characterised principally by the premillennial Second Coming of Christ. Traditionally, the church has taught that the Second Coming will be preceded by a global crisis with the Sabbath as a central issue. At Jesus' return, the righteous will be taken to heaven for one thousand years. After the millennium the unsaved will be punished by annihilation while the saved will live on a recreated Earth for eternity.

Woman of the Apocalypse Figure described in Chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation

The Woman of the Apocalypse is a figure described in Chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation.

Two witnesses

In the Book of Revelation, the two witnesses are two of God's prophets who are seen in a vision by John of Patmos, who appear during the Second woe recorded in Revelation 11:1-14. They have been variously identified by theologians as two individuals, as two groups of people, or as two concepts. Dispensationalist Christians believe that the events described in the Book of Revelation will occur before and during the Second Coming.

Four kingdoms of Daniel four kingdoms which, according to the Book of Daniel, precede the "end-time" and the "Kingdom of God"

The four kingdoms of Daniel are four kingdoms which, according to the Book of Daniel, precede the "end-time" and the "Kingdom of God".

The Beast (Revelation) May refer to one of two beasts described in the Book of Revelation.

The Beast may refer to one of two beasts described in the Book of Revelation.

Seven Spirits of God expression occurring 4 times in the Book of Revelation (1:4, 3:1, 4:5, 5:6); identified as “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne” (4:5) and “seven horns and seven eyes” of “a Lamb as it had been slain” (5:6)

In the Christian Bible, the term Seven Spirits of God appears four times in the Book of Revelation. The meaning of this term has been interpreted in multiple ways.

Revelation 13 Book of Revelation, chapter 13

Revelation 13 is the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The book is traditionally attributed to John the Apostle, but the precise identity of the author remains a point of academic debate. The author records visions of two beasts or monsters which he saw while "standing on the seashore", the monster from the sea and the monster from the land.

Development of the New Testament canon Development of the New Testament canon

The canon of the New Testament is the set of books Christians regard as divinely inspired and constituting the New Testament of the Christian Bible. For most, it is an agreed-upon list of twenty-seven books that includes the Canonical Gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation. The books of the canon of the New Testament were written before 120 AD.

Revelation 12 Book of Revelation, chapter 12

Revelation 12 is the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The book is traditionally attributed to John the Apostle, but the precise identity of the author remains a point of academic debate. This chapter contains the accounts about the woman, the dragon and the child, followed by the war between Michael and the dragon, then the appearance of the monster from the sea. William Robertson Nicoll, a Scottish Free Church minister, suggests that in this chapter the writer has created a Christianised version of a Jewish source which "described the birth of the messiah in terms borrowed from ... cosmological myths [such as] that of the conflict between the sun-god and the dragon of darkness and the deep".

Historicism, a method of interpretation in Christian eschatology which associates biblical prophecies with actual historical events and identifies symbolic beings with historical persons or societies, has been applied to the Book of Revelation by many writers. The Historicist view follows a straight line of continuous fulfillment of prophecy which starts in Daniel's time and goes through John's writing of the Book of Revelation all the way to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 5 Book of Revelation, chapter 5

Revelation 5 is the fifth chapter of the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The book is traditionally attributed to John the Apostle, but the precise identity of the author remains a point of academic debate. This chapter contains the inaugural vision of the lamb on the throne in heaven.

Revelation 8 Book of Revelation, chapter 8

Revelation 8 is the eighth chapter of the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The book is traditionally attributed to John the Apostle, but the precise identity of the author remains a point of academic debate. Chapter 6 to chapter 8:5 record the opening of the "Seven Seals", while chapter 8:6 to chapter 11 contains the accounts related to the sounding of the "Seven Trumpets". In this chapter, the seventh seal is opened, the vision of the opening of the other six seals having been reported in chapter 6, and the first four angels' trumpets are sounded.

Revelation 14 Book of Revelation, chapter 14

Revelation 14 is the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The book is traditionally attributed to John the Apostle, but the precise identity of the author remains a point of academic debate. This chapter contains the accounts of the lamb with 144,000 followers, the three angelic messages and the voice from heaven, as well as the harvest of the earth and the vintage of the earth. The Three Angels' messages in verses 6 to 12 form a central feature of the teaching and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church: "“Make disciples of Jesus Christ who live as His loving witnesses and proclaim to all people the everlasting gospel of the Three Angels’ Messages in preparation for His soon return".

Revelation 17 Book of Revelation, chapter 17

Revelation 17 is the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The book is traditionally attributed to John the Apostle, but the precise identity of the author remains a point of academic debate. This chapter describes the judgment of the Whore of Babylon.

Revelation 18 Book of Revelation, chapter 18

Revelation 18 is the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The book is traditionally attributed to John the Apostle, but the precise identity of the author remains a point of academic debate. This chapter describes the fall of Babylon the Great.

Revelation 19 Book of Revelation, chapter 19

Revelation 19 is the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The book is traditionally attributed to John the Apostle, but the precise identity of the author remains a point of academic debate. In this chapter, heaven exults over the fall of Babylon the Great.


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  88. "Flowers preach to us if we will hear", begins her poem 'Consider the lilies of the field' Goblin Market London: Oxford University Press (1913) p. 87
  89. Ms Rossetti remarks that patience is a word which does not occur in the Bible until the New Testament, as if the usage first came from Christ's own lips. Christina Rossetti The Face of the Deep London: SPCK (1892) p. 115
  90. "Christians should resemble fire-flies, not glow-worms; their brightness drawing eyes upward, not downward." The Face of the Deep p. 26
  91. 'vision' lends the wrong emphasis as Ms Rossetti sought to minimise the distinction between John's experience and that of others. She quoted 1 John 3:24 "He abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us" to show that when John says, "I was in the Spirit" it is not exceptional.
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  96. 1 2 Tina Pippin Death & Desire: The rhetoric of gender in the Apocalypse of John Louisville: Westminster-John Knox (1993) p. 105
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Book of Revelation
Apocalyptic Epistle
Preceded by
General Epistle

New Testament
Books of the Bible