For those who have ears...
First and foremost it is not the book of Revelations. There is only one, therefore Revelation. It is also not the revelation of John. It is a revelation revealed to John. The revelation is of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the most misunderstood and controversial book in the history of man. Is it real; is it imagery; is it symbolism; is it literal; is it futuristic; is it historic? The answer to these questions is yes. There are some parts that are imagery. There are some parts that are literal. Some parts tell of the past. And some tell of the future.
It was written by John, the Apostle. John was now back on his own after taking in Mary per Jesus' request at the cross. While he was on the island of Patmos he received the vision from Jesus. John was on the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel after being told not to do so. Tradition and folk lore says that John was sentenced to die in a cauldron of oil but did not die so he was exiled to the island. The island itself was taken by the Romans in 2nd century BC and was made into a penal colony for those who were deemed as a political opposition or a threat to Rome. The book was written around 95 AD but this is argued by Preterists who think it was written right before 70 AD. But many annals say he was exiled in the 14th year of Emperor Domitian. If that is so there is no way 70 AD would be correct.
There are many views that people see Revelation. All have their point of views supported and each one has their point of view with holes.
- Symbolic-- shows the cosmic battle between good and evil and how Christ conquers all
- Preterist-- shows that it is about 1st Century Church and its struggle with the Roman Empire
- Historic-- shows the history of the Church from its beginning until the end of time
- Futuristic-- shows what is to happen at the end of times only
Those who hold onto the first two views are considered amillennialist and say that the rule of Christ kingdom is now and Revelation is purely symbolic. Those who hold onto the 3rd view are considered post millennial and say that Christ will establish a kingdom on earth for 1000 years. Those who hold onto the 4th view are considered premillennialist and say that there will be a rapture and Christ will take all the believers back to heaven and the 1000 year reign is symbolic.
The most consistent seems to be that Revelation is telling a story of the end times but using the present day symbols to show a connection. John specifically says in 1:19 that he was to write down what is now and what will take place later. The events and images that John portrays such as the churches in Asia, wars in heaven, the Four Horsemen, Trumpets and Judgements, all use 1st century imagery to describe both the present in John's days and to serve as a warning for future generations. Example: the Church in Philadelphia was real. It was faithful and did the deeds of Christ. But it also tells us that if we are faithful then Jesus' name will be written upon us. Revelation is filled with all of these connections.
The most argued substance though in the book is the anti-Christ, the beast, and what it stands for. The same equation used to describe the other images n this book can be used for this person as well. The anti-Christ is a person and can also be considered symbolic for anything that stands up against God and His Son. John uses words that people in Rome would know so they could make a comparison of the what they know with what Jesus wants His people to know. This is where the preterist makes his case. Since many of the events talk about Rome then all of the anti-Christ's activities point to the Roman Emperors. But one thing destroys the extreme position of this view. Rome destroyed the Temple in 70 AD. This book was written in 95 AD or so. If you use a preterist view and not take it literally then many of the positions are accurate.
Some of the main points are:
1. Jesus is the beginning and the end. He is all in all. He was, He is, and He will be. (1:8)
2. Jesus is the only one perfect and worthy. (5:1-14)
3. Jesus is the lamb that is also the shepherd (7:17)
4. Satan is doomed. (20:7-10)
5. Jesus is coming again. (22:7-21)
This book was written no matter how we look at it as a warning that we need to follow Jesus because He is everything to this universe. He is the alpha and omega. His words are faithful and true. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is not only the Lamb but the Lion as well. Those who read this book with an open mind are blessed. In the end no matter what those who believe in Jesus and followed His teachings will be united with Him either here on earth or in heaven or both. Sadly, though many will not believe even if all the events in Revelation are revealed as complete literal because mankind will have become full of pride and will live by the flesh. Pray for those who are stubborn.