New series! Revelation Backgrounds

Lesson Summary

Welcome to our series on the book of Revelation we call “Revelation Backgrounds.” In this introductory episode, we will provide an introduction to the book, some background into Jewish Apocalyptic literature, and we’ll provide what we see are Seven Keys to Interpretation. Revelation can be a complex book, but these keys will help assure we get started on the right path.

While many commentators focus on what Revelation may mean to us living in the 21st Century, very few Protestant commentators take the time to understand the historical, first-century context. Revelation, as it turns out, is the most Jewish book in the New Testament. There are over 800 allusions to the Old Testament in the book’s 404 verses. The reasons many people struggle with the book is because we ignore its Jewishness.

We have developed “Seven Keys to Interpretation,” which we will discuss in the lesson.

  1. Follow the “Talmidim Way” - We want to learn to walk in the dust of Yeshua our Rabbi just as His original Talmidim, His disciples such as John did.
  2. Be open to the Spirit’s leading - Understanding what God wants us to learn is way more important that making sure others know our beliefs
  3. Be a Berean - Check everything out against scripture. If our interpretation doesn’t fit, it might be something we need to discard.
  4. Understand the intended audience - They were Jewish, or if they were gentiles, they were worshipping in a Jewish setting, which would have almost nothing in common with our western protestant churches today
  5. Revelation is a Jewish Book - For every verse in Revelation there is a 2:1 ratio of Old Testament illusions. If we try to understand Revelation without this background, we’ll be lost. With it, we’ll be much better off
  6. Be suspicious if an interpretation does not fit the original context - that is to say, if it could not have been within the realm of possibility for John or the original audience. This is not to say that the book can’t have multiple layers of interpretation, but for our historical and cultural approach, we want to start by making sure it’s something that would have made sense to the original audience.
  7. No fear allowed - While books and websites present the events of Revelation as something that should scare an unbeliever (and they probably should be scared), fear has no place in a believer’s heart.

We will also look at who wrote the book and some other details:

  • Who wrote Revelation? John the Apostle. We don’t have 100% concrete proof, but the earliest and best evidence suggests it was none other than John, the author of the Gospel and three letters that bear his name.
  • Where was it written? Patmos, which is an island some 35 miles off the coast of Turkey. Revelation 1:9 is our source for this.
  • When was it written? Most conservative scholars land on 90-95 of the Common Era. Iraneus is the earliest source for this information. He was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John. Iraneus states John received the relevation during the time of Emperor Domitian.
  • How was Revelation given? Signs and Patterns! Revelation 1:1 contains the Greek word σημαίνω, which literally means “rendered into signs.” Every sign in the Bible points to something. Every sign in Revelation points to a verse (sometimes more than one) in the Old Testament. The pattern of the number seven is also quite conspicuous. Sevens are everywhere in Revelation. Since sevens are also conspicuous throughout the entire Bible, this is often seen as the “fingerprints of the Holy Spirit.”
  • To whom was Revelation written? The seven messianic congregations in Asia Minor.. We are told this in Revelation 1:4. Note that although your Bible may say “seven churches,” the “church” either as a building or an organization did not exist when Revelation was given. We need to avoid what is called an anachronistic fallacy. See the lesson detail for more information.
  • Why was Revelation written? The Hope of HIS RETURN and the Restoration of all things!

We look forward to beginning this study!

Read/Listen to the portions

  • Revelation 1:1-9

Watch the video

Audio only

Study the context

Chris Flanagan
Chris Flanagan
Bible teacher and growing disciple of ישוע/Jesus

Former healthcare compliance auditing professional with a passion for understanding the biblical texts in their original context and applying these lessons to 21st century life.