Revelation is the final chapter. It’s the book that closes out the Bible, the one book in the Bible that many people are afraid to read. I guess the many symbols and images can be overwhelming and somewhat scary. Ultimately when you understand the true meaning of the book – when you know whose side you are on – that fear will turn to joy and expectation.
The goal today is not to give you a deep dive into the entire book, even though I will give you a brief synopsis. Today we want to look a little bit closer and learn more about the person who wrote Revelation. You will find the identity of the writer in Revelation 1:4. That person was John.
Who Was John?
In the New Testament, you just can’t say John wrote the book because there were a few important people named John in that time. The author of Revelation is the apostle John, or as he called himself the disciple whom Jesus loved. John is the author of five books in the New Testament:
– The Gospel of John (this is where he identifies himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved)
– 1 John
– 2 John
– 3 John
John was one of the twelve disciples, but he was also part of the “inner circle” along with Peter and James. They had the privilege of experiencing things with Jesus that the other disciples didn’t. One of the greatest of these happened when they were with Jesus on the mountain and saw his transfiguration. You can read about it in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9.
Interesting enough, even though John was an eyewitness to this event he chose not to write about it in his own gospel. Some scholars suggest that the influence of this event is not captured in one instance in John’s gospel account. They say it is a recurring theme that flows throughout his entire book. Nevertheless, this “inner circle” apostle is the same John who wrote Revelation.
Where Did John Write Revelation?
The book of Revelation was written around AD 95. Prior to him writing the book, there was a time of tremendous persecution in the church. At this time, the ruling Roman emperor was Domitian. John was persecuted because he was fulfilling his mission, preaching the gospel and making disciples. As part of his persecution, he was exiled to the island of Patmos. He refers to this in the first chapter of Revelation:
“I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9).
Patmos was a small penal colony to which John was banished. I guess this was the emperor’s method of trying to shut him down and silence him. What’s interesting to note is that in this place of exile and banishment, God gave him this great revelation. It is just a reminder that your circumstances don’t limit God from using you or revealing truth to you. God is greater than your circumstances.
How Did John See the Things Written in Revelation?
Early in chapter 1 of the book we discover the way John wrote the book. Surprisingly, it came by revelation (I guess naming the book wasn’t very difficult). Here is how it happened in John’s words:
“On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: ‘Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea” (Revelation 1:10-11).
John was caught up in the Spirit and he was instructed to write all the things he saw. He was creating a written record of the things God was about to reveal to him. I often wonder with many of the things he saw, how much his mind must have been blown. Unbeknownst to him, he was writing about things that would happen thousands of years into the future. What an incredible challenge.
Imagine if you lived in the 1930’s and you had to describe at that time the internet, smartphones or even drones. What language would you use to describe that? What point of reference or imagery would you use to describe this flying spider looking thing. This was part of John’s challenge, describing things thousands of years into the future with language and references of the first century AD. Yet he succeeded because he was guided by The Holy Spirit, who I guess you could say is technically the one who wrote Revelation.
How Can We Trust That John’s Visions Are Reliable?
What’s very interesting about this book is that John has an encounter with Jesus again in the first chapter. Remember John had a very unique perspective of Jesus. He saw him in his natural form as a human; he also saw him transfigured and in all his glory. Let’s look at this encounter:
“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.‘Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later” (Revelation 1:12-19).
I believe that when John saw this vision of Jesus, his mind went back to that mountaintop experience. I believe the combination of being caught up in the spirit and this encounter with Jesus gave John the confidence to write, and more importantly gives us the confidence to believe what he wrote.
What Is the Message of Revelation?
The message of Revelation is a simple one with a lot of challenging symbolism. The message is about what is to come. John is writing in two spaces: what was happening then and what would happen in the future. The book gives a picture of what will happen as we close the doors on human history as we know it and we look forward with anticipation to Jesus’ second coming.
John describes in detail a period of tribulation that will come upon the earth, that will be unmatched when compared to any other time in human history. He gives us insight into the events that will take place leading up to the very moment when Jesus again returns as he promised he would do. What John also describes is what happens after that, and then ultimately the judgement of Satan and all who choose not to follow Christ.
Finally, he ends with the beauty of heaven and the wonderful things God has in store for those who love him. If there is one message that Revelation emphasizes I believe it’s found in chapter 22:
“The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.’ ‘Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll” (Revelation 22:6-7).
Jesus is coming soon. In light of this truth, the question that remains, that only you can answer, is how will you live your life?
Knowing who wrote Revelation, the apostle John, knowing the message of Revelation that Jesus is coming soon, ask yourself now: What’s next? I mentioned earlier that the book of Revelation can be scary, depending on whose side you are on. If you are on Jesus’ side, here is good news – you win. This is a story that truly ends well for those in Christ. You have nothing to fear. God has nothing but the best planned for those who love him. When he comes that will be a glorious day. I pray that we would all labor for the cause of Christ until he comes. It will be worth it all in the end.