Revelation is an Apocalyptic book, which is a style of writing popular among the Jews and Christians of the first century, and therefore would be better understood by them than we would now. It is written by John (though not necessarily the same John who wrote the gospel, one of Jesus’ 12 – doubt is cast on this due to the style of writing not matching that of his other writings).
The book was written between c. 69 – 96 ad, and recounts the vision John had whilst in exile on the island of Patmos. At this time the Christian church lost its status as a cult of the Jewish Religion, and was left open to severe persecution by the Roman State for the next couple hundred years. It is addressed to the seven churches in Asia, and would have been passed around those churches following the Roman road between these locations.
In understanding the book of Revelation there are four main approaches taken:
1. Preterist: Revelation is a depiction of the Church during the 1st Century, its struggle against the Roman empire, the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the desecration of the temple in the same year.
2. Historicist: Revelation provides a broad view of history and seeks to apply the writings in Revelation to significant events in history, specifically during the Christian era.
3. Futurist: While historical events may draw a parrellel to the writings in Revelation the events describe are yet to come, being events that will take place at the end of the age and the coming of Christ.
4. Idealist: The events described in Revelation are neither past, present nor future but describe the constant spiritual battle that is waging.
All these interpretations have their merits, and no-one is likely to be able to understand exactly where we are in relation to the things that must happen according to the Revelation. It is therefore important to always be ready. There are also different theological approaches to when the events will take place, the rapture, the 1,000 years, the tribulation etc, but we’ll visit these later.
Jesus is depicted in [youversion]Revelation 1:13-16[/youversion] as “one like the Son of Man”, with white hair and face, surrounded by seven lampstands (the churches) and seven stars in His right hand (the angels of the seven churches), and a tongue like a two edged sword (parallel with the depiction of the scriptures).