Dear 5x5x5 readers,
We have come at last to the end, The Book of Revelation is the last book in the Bible and the last we will read on our journey through the New Testament in a year. Congratulations to all who are still reading with us!
Revelation is clearly one of the most complicated and neglected books in the Bible. We know that it is important, but we cannot figure out what to do with all the symbolism and strange events, and we end up ignoring it completely. Consider whom it was written to and why, and perhaps that will give us a start. The consensus is that the Apostle John wrote Revelation while in exile on the island of Patmos (a Mediterranean Alcatraz of sorts!) He wrote it around 90 AD, some 60 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the birth of the church at Pentecost. Churches across the Roman empire remained small, scattered, and persecuted. Jerusalem had been destroyed. It was undoubtedly difficult for Christians to persevere, there was doubt, conflict, and disappointment that Christ had not yet returned and set things right in the world.
To these little, persecuted, frustrated church communities John writes the letter of Revelation. The book is firmly rooted in the historical context of the Roman Empire. As you read, work to identify broad themes. Who is God? How is He working in human history? Who is Jesus Christ? What happens to evil in the world? Is there any hope? Where does real power lie? What is the end of the story? Try not too get too caught up in figuring out the sequence of events, or what various symbols mean – much of it remains a mystery and many commentaries have been written on such things with no agreement. Remember that Revelation was not written to give us a precise timeline of history, but rather to offer hope and encouragement.
(update) For those who asked for a commentary recommendation – I am reading and loving Revelation by Leon Morris, 2009, part of the Tyndale New Testament commentary series. It is written for a pastoral/ministry audience (not an academic one) and is very balanced. It is also firmly rooted in the historical context of the original audience, so many of the symbols they would have understood are explained. Dispensationalists would not like it.
“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be praise and honor and glory and power forever.” – Revelation 5:13