The word "revelation" means unveiling or disclosure and this was given to the apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. John was exiled there by the Roman Emperor Domitian for preaching the Christian faith. Patmos is a mountainous, dry, desolate island about 10 miles long and 6 miles wide in the Aegean Sea. Traditionally, John received this message in a cave on the island somewhere between the years A.D. 90-95.
Traditionally, there have been four basic approaches to interpretation of the book. The first approach is to look at it as symbolic of the cosmic conflict between good and evil. The second approach called preterist looks at the book as symbolizing events that took place in the first century church. The third approach called historicist looks at the writings as an overview of the history of Christianity. The final approach called futurist looks at the book as being a prophesy of things to come.
We will look at the writings as a combination of all four approaches meaning that parts of the writings happened in the early history of the church, some are unfolding today, and some are going to take place in the future.
Though the book contains many symbols, it is possible to understand them through an in depth study that is led by the Holy Spirit.
If you are looking for a study on a particular chapter of the book, you can jump to that chapter by clicking on its number: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, or 22.
"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw- that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ." NIV translation
The first two verses answer the basic questions that a journalist would ask if they were investigating something. Those questions are who, what, where, when, why, and how. It is simply telling us that God (who) sent through his angel (how) to John (where) during his exile (when) the revelation (what) to show his servants what must soon take place (why).
"Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." NIV translation
The third verse explains that those who read and heed what is written will be blessed. In the Greek, the word for heed is "terountes" and it means "while holding fast". The Greek word used for "blessed" is makarias and it gives the sense of someone who is secure and does not need to worry about anything. So, this verse speaks to the fact that, if we hold fast to the grace of Jesus Christ, we do not have to fear or worry about what is contained in this book. This is the first of seven beatitudes (blessings) in this book.
In the early church, most people did not have the scriptures and so, when they met, someone would read them aloud for everyone. We see, here, that those who read them as well as those who hold fast to the comfort that is contained in them will be blessed. There are many Christians who do not want to read or study this book because they find it scary but, as we see here, it is not scary for those who are in Christ. This book is meant to comfort the Christian as we wait for its completion.