The Book of Revelation

The Book of
 Reason for being written
 To comfort Christians being
persecuted by the Romans
 This imagery pitched them
out of their terrifying reality
 Provided strongly
imaginative imagery of God’s
ultimate salvation
 Jesus, the Sacrificial Lamb,
conquered death
 Apocalypse concerns the end of
 Comes from a Greek word for
“unveiling” or “revealing”
 Apocalypses are most often addressed
to those living in times of suffering and
 Revelation is widely popular for the
wrong reasons, for a great number of
people read it as a guide to how the
world will end, assuming that the
author was given by Christ detailed
knowledge of the future that he
communicated in coded symbols.
 e.g. – preachers have identified the
Beast from the Earth whose
number is 666 as Hitler, the Pope,
and Saddam Hussein, and have
related events in Revelation to the
Communist Revolution, the atom
bomb, etc.
Apocalypses through the Ages
 The 19th and the 20th centuries have seen many interpreters of prophecy
who used calculations from Revelation to predict the exact date of the end
of the world.
 In every generation since the book was written, Christians have argued
that its vivid description of catastrophic events would happen in their own
 Written between 90-100 CE
 Addressed to
 Christian churches in Asia minor
 “John, to the seven churches that are
in Asia” (Rev. 1:4)
 It means that Rev. is a book
for its own time, and that it
was written to communicate
with Christian congregations
in first-century Asia Minor
(modern-day Turkey)
 Approaching the book as a historical
 Those who lived in John’s time
understood the message of the book
by studying the language and
literature of the ancient world not by
watching the news
 The seer of Revelation four times
calls himself John.
 who was neither John son of
 nor the writer of the Johannine
Gospel or of the Epistles.
 The author of Revelation did not
know how or when the world will
end, and neither does anyone else.
 The author directs his anger
against the political institutions of
his day, especially the Roman
government, which was
responsible for the oppression and
suffering of the people of God.
 Christianity was an oppressed
and persecuted religion.
 In his view, this government will
not survive, since God was soon
going to destroy it.
Why beasts?
 The Romans killed Christians who
refused to deny Jesus
 Often, these Christians were made to
fight wild beasts in the arenas
throughout the Empire
 While Christians on earth were fighting
worldly beasts, God in heaven and his
angels were fighting otherworldly
The 666
The woman and the Dragon
The 7 seals
The number of the beast
Read warm-up
 John invites the readers to
“calculate the number of the
beast, for it is the number of
a person” (13:18)
 The text apparently assumes
that readers are familiar with
which is the practice of
adding up the numerical
values of the letters in a
 In antiquity, the letters of the
alphabet had numerical
values ascribed to them.
 By explaining the 666 is the
“number of a person,”
John implies that 666 is the
sum of the values of the
letters in a person’s name.
A common practice
 The practice of gematria
was not uncommon
 On the level of street
culture, a graffiti artist
used a number for the
name of his beloved on the
wall: “I love her whose
number is 545”
 On the level of religious
writing, Christian authors
delighted in showing that
the name “Jesus” in Greek
letters added up to 888.
The Number of the beast 666
 Antichrist refers to
someone that does not
believe in God.
 The beast is described as
God’s enemy
 Who controls the world,
exploits its people, and
kills the saints.
 So, the beast may be
another image of the
Roman Empire.
 If so, then the heads
would presumably be
the rulers of the empire,
some of whom demand
to be worshiped.
 Nero was seen as the archenemy
of the Christians
 Nero ruthlessly “made war on the
saints,” condemning some to be
torn apart by wild dogs, others to
be crucified, and still others to be
burned alive
 It seems that 666 corresponds to
Neron Kaisar
 Which is the Hebrew form of the
name Nero Caesar
 By the time Revelation was
written, Nero was dead, but John
portrays the beast as a Nero
figure in order to underscore the
threat that it poses.
 The triple six
 The # 666 implies
that the beast
signifies unfulfillment
and destruction.
Other candidates for 666
 Pope Benedictus
 Computer
 Barney the dinosaur
and the
Popular culture
John’s audience lived within a wider culture that had its own heroes and
image makers, its rituals, stereotypes, and graffiti.
Leto vs. Python
 A common story of the battle
between good and evil that
circulated during John’s time
included a dragon named
Python and a woman named
 When Leto became pregnant by
the god Zeus, the dragon
pursued her in order to kill her
and her child.
 The north wind rescued Leto by
carrying her away.
 She eventually found refuge on
the island of Delos.
Apollo = Nero
In Delos, Leto gave birth to
Apollo and Artemis.
Four days later, Apollo set off in
pursuit of the dragon, soon
slaying the creature to avenge his
Roman emperors were able to
put the tale to good use by
associating themselves with
Citizens of the empire could be
expected to identify the woman
in the story with the goddess
Roma, who was the queen of
Her son would be the Roman
The emperor Nero liked to
present himself in the guise of
 When John tells about a
pregnant woman and a
dragon, the seven
churches understand that
John’s version reverses the
 The woman in labor is not
a pagan goddess but the
people of God (the
church); the child is not
the emperor but Christ;
and the dragon represents
the forces that oppose
Christ and threaten his
7 Seals act.
The seven seals
• The text is not telling us to
expect the end times
•The horsemen represent
conquest, violence, economic
hardship, and death.
•These were genuine threats
for people in the first
century and they have
remained threats for people
in subsequent centuries
•The four
horsemen are
designed to
shatter the
illusion that
people can find
true security in
the borders of a
nation or empire,
in a flourishing
economy, or in
their own health.
 The first horseman
with his bow
appears in the
background of the
picture, furthest
away from the
 This placement is
suggestive because
fear of conquest by a
foreign power is
often furthest away
from readers’ mind.
 The first horseman was given the crown of victory, implying that his
power to conquer came from God
The second
 The second horseman brings
the threat by pointing to the
violence that people perpetrate
on “one another”
 The rider stands for the
threat of violence that can
erupt within one’s own
 The second horseman was
permitted to take peace
from the earth,
presumably by God, and
he was given a sword to
accomplish the task
 The third horseman brings the threat still closer by depicting economic
 The rider holds a pair of scales, like those used in commerce, and issues a
threat of economic hardship.
 This horseman is the largest and most prominent suggesting that economic
difficulties loom largest in most people’s mind.
 The four horseman
 Represents death
 It is the lower foreground of the picture with the creature that represent
The realm of dead. Sheol in Hebrew
 Sits on a green horse
 The fourth horseman was given authority to inflict death