According to the critical analysis of John A.T. Robinson (Redating the New Testament, The Westmister Press, 1976), this work was originally written circa A.D. 68-70. This seems confirmed by the internal evidence, if taken at face value, for in chapter 11 we find that the temple is still standing, along with a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. Milton S. Terry instructs us,
"It is worthy of note that the 'Muratorian Fragment,' a very ancient and important document
(A.D. 170), declares that 'the blessed apostle Paul, following the manner of his predecessor
John, wrote in like manner to seven churches expressly by name.' This testimony clearly
puts John before Paul in writing epistles to the churches, and tends to confirm the position
taken above that Gal. 4:25, 26, is an allusion to John's picture of the heavenly Jerusalem"
(Biblical Apocalyptics, A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ in the
Canonical Scriptures, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001 [originally in1898], p 267; emphasis
The purpose for writing another commentary on Revelation (or: An Unveiling) is to offer an interpretation that points out the significance of the frequent use of the Greek present tense (which tells us that the author is speaking of lineal or durative action, which can be construed as continuous, or habitual, or repeated, or progressive action). The context will also, at times, indicate that this action is presently ongoing. With this work being based upon The New Testament, God's Message of Goodness, Ease and Well-Being Which Brings God's Gifts of His Spirit, His Life, His Grace, His Power, His Fairness, His Peace and His Love (Harper Brown Publishing, 2015 Edition), another reason for this work is to uncover what light an expanded translation (having multiple renderings) will shed upon our understanding of what John was communicating to his listeners. We will consider the views of a variety of scholars, gathering their insights, but this endeavor will be a fresh interpretation of the text. My comments, and those of some of my friends, will be a kind of midrash: reflections on the story (the drama set forth in the visions) to communicate all of its underlying messages, as we currently perceive them.
Marcus J. Borg makes some insightful observations in, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time (HarperSanFrancisco, 2001). In his Preface, p ix, he states,
“Conflict about the Bible is the single most divisive issue among Christians in North
America today…. The conflict is between two very different ways of reading the Bible…
between a ‘literal-factual way’… and a ‘historical-metaphorical’ way of reading it…. The
latter has been taught in seminaries of mainline denominations for the better part of a
century. Most clergy have known about it for a long time. In the last few decades, the
historical-metaphorical way of reading the Bible has become increasingly common among
lay members of mainline churches.”
It is this “historical-metaphorical way” that will be followed in this present work, allowing the Scriptures that the first century author would have drawn upon and alluded to, which was the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the OT), to supply the meanings of the apocalyptic symbolism, while also turning to the writings of other first century authors to inform our understanding of the text.
In the Introduction to chapter 10 (“Reading Revelation Again”), of this same work, Borg observes concerning the canonical placement of Revelation at the end of the NT, that “the Bible moves from ‘paradise lost’ [i.e., the opening chapters of Genesis] to ‘paradise restored” (ibid p 267; brackets added). He, along with most scholars, reads Revelation as apocalyptic literature, which he instructs us, “flourished in Judaism from about 200 BCE to 100 CE,” and points out that, “it is also a letter addressed to seven Christian communities in seven cities in Asia Minor,” then also remarks that,
“as many as 65 percent of the verses in Revelation echo or allude to passages from the
Hebrew Bible” (ibid p 268).
William Barclay shares that apocalyptic literature is,
"representative of a kind of literature which was the commonest of all between the Old and
the New Testaments.... the product of an indestructible Jewish hope.... History for the Jews
was a catalogue of disasters from which it became clear that no human deliverer could
rescue them.... [they] looked for the direct intervention of God.... All apocalyptic literature
deals with these events.... It is entirely composed of dreams and visions of the end. That
means that all apocalyptic literature is necessarily cryptic. It is continually attempting to
describe the indescribable, to say the unsayable, to paint the unpaintable" (The Revelation
of John, Vol. 1, The Daily Study Bible Series, Westminster Press, 1976 pp 2-4; brackets
For an in-depth introduction to the various ways that this book has been interpreted, I recommend The New International Greek Testament Commentary, The Book of Revelation, G.K. Beale, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999. The author of this present volume will present a primarily preterist (Latin praeter means "before") interpretation which views Revelation as speaking of events that were to happen, and that were fulfilled or inaugurated, in the first century A.D. Added to this will be comments on what this means to us in our day, and what it can mean to folks who read Revelation in future days. The author sees this Unveiling of and from Jesus, the Messiah, as an apocalyptic "gospel." It is filled with good news: Jesus Christ reigns! Jesus is Lord! He is,
"presently making all things new (or: habitually creating everything [to be] new and fresh;
progressively forming [the] whole anew; or, reading panta as masculine: periodically
making all humanity new; progressively creating every person anew; constantly
constructing [as corporate being] all people fresh and new; continuously renewing
everyone)!" (Rev. 21:5)
The book begins with a figurative vision of the resurrected Jesus Christ and presents the introduction to the entire book, chapter 1, then in chapters 2-3 John is told what to write to seven of the called-out, covenant communities in Asia Minor. Following this John experiences a series of visions concerning which, in 1:19, he is told to write of "the things you see (or: saw), and the things presently existing (or: what they are), as well as which things are progressively about to occur (or: are now impending to be coming into existence) after these things." What is often overlooked is that some of the visions which John saw might be speaking of the first category, "the things presently existing." Borg notes that, “in the book as a whole, ‘I saw’ is used about fifty-five times” (ibid p 270). So in considering the things that were disclosed to John, care must be taken in order to discern between what spoke of the realities of the present time in which John was living, and the forecasts of what would soon take place after his having received the visions.
The structure of the visions which compose the rest of the book (following the letters to the called-out folks in chapters 2 and 3) has been seen in a variety of ways (Cf Beale's Introduction), but here will be presented as different symbolic pictures of the scenarios that presently exist in God's new creation (e.g., chapter 4 and chapter 22), and of things that would culminate in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The book speaks to historical situations concerning those seven communities to which this letter was to be sent, it affirms various aspects of the new creation, describes the relationship between Jerusalem and the Roman Empire, together with judgment of both of these, and ends with a glorious picture of Christ's body as the New, Heavenly Jerusalem and its ministry to the nations – right here on earth.
"Revelation is a narrative within a letter, introduced as an apocalypse. It is not strictly
chronological. When Christ unleashes the great eschatological events, they take place in
two great cycles of visions that cover some of the same ground from different angles. This is
called recapitulation. Having a grasp of Revelation's structure will help us to keep track of
what is going on as we read the book" (Frederick J. Murphy, Apocalypticism in the Bible and
Its World, Baker Academic, 2012, p 97).
Beale offers other views than what Murphy has just said, and I invite you to keep an open mind regarding how the book is structured, but Murphy's description will be a good starting point for our journey. Chapter 1:1-3 provides John's descriptive title. On the history of this genre of literature, S. MacLean Gilmour posits:
"Jewish apocalyptic had its roots, then, in OT prophecy, but its development was in the main
the consequence of alien influence. The literature of Babylonia and of Iran reveals at an
earlier date than does the OT the chief apocalyptic traits.... It is no accident that apocalyptic
ideas became naturalized within Judaism after the exilic period, for it was then that the Jews
were vassals of the Persians.... Apocalyptic literature reflects the historical situation at the
time of writing" (The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, Abingdon Press,
1971, p 945).
A.E. Harvey shares:
"The Revelation. So far as we know, this had never before been the title of a book. The
idea behind the title is of course as old as religion itself: there have always been certain
men and women who have claimed that in the course of some supernatural experience
divine mysteries were 'revealed' to them; and the religions of Greece and Rome, as of
Palestine and Egypt, produced numerous books in which the writer (whether under his own
or an assumed name) claimed to have fallen into a trance, to have seen inexpressible
visions, and to have been instructed by heavenly voices, apparitions or angels in the
meaning of the mysteries he had seen and heard.... The ultimate mystery, for the Jews, was
the future – the state of affairs for which creation had been destined by God, and which
alone gave meaning to the present.... For Christians, on the other hand, this kind of writing
assumed great importance. The conditions... were now dramatically altered. The new
age... was now inaugurated by Jesus Christ... There existed now... an authoritative and final
revelation. The claim contained in the first words of the book was as new as the religion
which made such a book possible" (A.E. Harvey, The New English Bible Companion to the
New Testament, Oxford University Press, 1970, pp 787-8).
David H. Stern observes,
"Moreover, the book of Revelation is highly distinctive in the way it uses the Tanakh [OT].
There are very few direct quotations, but no less than five hundred allusions to the Tanakh
[OT], especially the books of Exodus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah and Daniel....
But the overall effect of so many Tanakh [OT] references and allusions is to anchor ever
part of the book in the God-inspired words of Israel's Prophets" (Jewish New Testament
Commentary, Jewish NT Pub, Inc, 1999, p785; brackets added).
Jean-Louis D'Aragon points out that, "It has been influenced, in varying degrees, by three literary forms: (a) apocalyptic, (b) prophetic, and (c) epistolary" (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Vol. II, Prentice Hall, Inc., 1968, p 467).
Bruce M. Metzger states,
"The book of Revelation is unique in appealing primarily to our imagination – not, however,
a freewheeling imagination, but a disciplined imagination. This book contains a series of
word pictures.... Many of the details of the pictures are intended to contribute to the total
impression, and are not to be isolated and interpreted with wooden literalism.... In any case,
it is important to recognize that the descriptions are descriptions of symbols, not of the
reality conveyed by the symbols" (Breaking the Code, Understanding the Book of
Revelation, Abingdon Press,1999, pp 11, 14; emphasis original). He further points out that
"Of the 404 verses that comprise the 22 chapters of the book of Revelation, 278 verses
contain one or more allusions to an OT passage" (Breaking the Code, Understanding the
Book of Revelation, Abingdon Press,1999 p 13).
Beale (ibid p 51-2, 56) notes the use of the Greek verb shmainw (to indicate by signs or symbols) in Dan. 2 (especially vs. 45) and Rev. 1:1, and thus affirms,
"The symbolic use of shmainw in Dan. 2 defines the use in Rev. 1:1 as referring to symbolic
communication and not mere general conveyance of information.... Hence, the predominant
manner by which to approach the material will be according to a nonliteral interpretative
method.... The OT and Judaism are the primary background against which to understand
the images and ideas of the Apocalypse."
As we will see, this is the key to understanding the figures and symbols throughout this letter. A major symbolic feature is the use of numbers. As Beale attests, "... these numbers receive their figurative significance from the OT.... The frequent repetition of the numbers underscores the notion that nothing is random or coincidental" (ibid p 58, 63). In considering the format of the letter, 1:1-8 can be viewed as a prologue, with 22:6-21 as the epilogue. Between these, some see the body of the letter divided into seven sections, while others see eight sections, and some see only two. Metzger suggests "seven parallel sections divided at 3:22; 8:2; 11:19; 14:20; 16:21; and 19:21," and gives us the insightful admonition that, "There is, however, no reason to assume that the order in which John received his visions must be the order in which the contents of the visions are to be fulfilled.... he repeats his messages more than once from differing points of view" (ibid pp 18-19). The first section begins with John's vision of, and instructions from, the risen Christ, seen in a symbolic form, and then continues with the letters to seven of the called-out communities in 1st century Asia Minor. D'Aragon informs us,
"Symbolic numbers acquire a considerable importance: Seven (54 times) signifies fullness,
perfection; twelve (23 times) recalls the 12 tribes of Israel and indicates that the people of
God has reached its eschatological perfection; four (16 times) symbolizes the universality of
the visible world; also worth mentioning: three (11 times), ten (10 times) and a thousand (6
times in ch. 20; often in multiples)" (ibid).
"John is fond of sevens; he mentions seven golden lampstands, seven stars, seven flaming
torches, seven spirits of God, seven eyes, seven seals, seven angels, seven trumpets,
seven thunders, seven heads on the dragon, seven plagues, seven bowls, seven mountains
and seven kings... as well as the seven-fold praise presented to the Lamb (5:12)"
(ibid p 18 n 5).
Borg adds to these, “seven beatitudes, seven hymns of praise, seven categories of people, seven references to the altar…” (ibid p 270).
Beale concludes that, "the focus of the book is exhortation to the church community..." (ibid p 33).
The author of this Unveiling identifies himself as John.
"A tradition that goes right back to the 2nd century A.D. identifies him with the author of the
gospel and letters of John.... The most which the evidence allows us to say is that the work
was written.... by a Jewish Christian who was familiar with some of the ideas contained in
John's gospel, who was held in respect by certain churches in Asia Minor..." (Harvey, ibid
In the Foreword to, The Consummation of the Ages, A.D. 70 and the Second Coming in the Book of Revelation (Kurt M. Simmons, Bimillennial Preterist Association, 2003, p xvi), Todd Dennis quotes Origen,
"I challenge anyone to prove my statement untrue if I say that the entire Jewish nation was
destroyed less than one whole generation later... For it was, I believe, forty-two years from
the time when they crucified Jesus to the destruction of Jerusalem" (A.D. 250: Origenes,
Contra Celsum, 198-199).
Beale identifies two forms of the preterist perspective: (1) "Revelation as a prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.;" (2) "a prophecy of the fall of the Roman Empire, 'Babylon the Great,'... in the fifth century A.D." (ibid p 44, 45). But there are more forms of this perspective, among them being "partial preterism" (i.e., some, but not all of the prophecies have been fulfilled) and "full preterism" (i.e., all has been fulfilled, including the resurrection) – along with other variations of these two categories.
"The OT and Judaism are the primary background against which to understand the images and ideas of the Apocalypse.... [it] contains more OT references than any other NT book" (Beal, ibid pp 56, 77; brackets added). Terry maintains,
"... the prophecies of this book are an apocalypse of the fall of Jerusalem and the rise and
triumph of Christianity.... [it] is but an enlargement of our Lord's eschatological sermon on
the Mount of Olives.... The corrupt and outcast Jerusalem, guilty of 'all the righteous blood
shed on the earth [or: land]' (Mat. 23:35), is called Sodom, and Egypt and Babylon; but the
heavenly kingdom which shall never be destroyed is appropriately called 'the holy city, new
Jerusalem'" (ibid p 269-70; brackets added).
Gilmour states, "Apocalyptic literature reflects the historical situation at the time of writing.... written for their own day and generation" (ibid p 945, 949).
Lynn Hiles brings us another perspective to investigating this book:
"[T]his book is Covenantal because the Book of Revelation is about the church moving from
the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in its understanding. And it is Christological
because it is a study of the Head and His Body being unveiled.... As you look into the Word
of God, not only do you see the Head, but also the members of His body" (The Revelation
of Jesus Christ, An Open Letter to the Church from a Modern Perspective of the Book of
Revelation, Destiny Image Publishers, 2007, p 16).
Another overview that Hiles has on offer is seeing the patterns in play between Israel's annual religious calendar, and the visions here in Revelation:
"We first saw the lamb slain, shadowed for us in the Feast of Passover. Now we see in
Rev. six and seven a picture of the Feast of Pentecost where angels seal God's servants on
their foreheads.... It is no coincidence that in chapter eight we see seven angels with seven
trumpets, preparing to sound. By looking at Israel's feasts in the OT, we find the Feast of
Pentecost followed by the Feast of Trumpets.... After each angel sounds in Rev. eight,
there is an outpouring of seven vials (literally, bowls of blood) symbolizing the great Day of
Atonement. This day follows the Feast of Trumpets in the Hebrew calendar. In Revelation's
closing, the Feast of Ingratherings is pictured. Using the sickle, the angel reaps the first
fruits of the people, 'for the harvest is ripe' (Rev. 14:15). I think you will agree that this is a
great conclusion.... We can see that Revelation is a book painting the complete picture from
all the glimpses given to us throughout the OT" (ibid pp 34, 36).
Hiles' perceptions regarding the structure and plan of the book find currency in the three-fold division of "seals, trumpets and bowls (vials)" as being allusions to the annual cultic calendar of OT Israel. We will find the repeated recapitulations as picturing different aspects of God's eschatological deliverance in Christ. These will be seen to frequently echo Israel's Exodus and the ensuing establishment of its cultus that the NT writers present as disclosures pointing to the work of the Messiah. Furthermore, we can keep in mind the many and varied comparisons that Jesus used to describe God's (or: heaven's) sovereign activities and influences within His reign (or: kingdom dominion). Like the figures and prophecies in the OT, here in the Unveiling their counterparts spoke of literal, existing and soon-coming, realities of the 1st century AD, yet also pointed above to the spiritual realities of the inaugurated new age of the Messiah.
As we read through the book, we will be able to observe inter-relating threads that combine to form a unified tapestry. When reading the letters to the called-out communities, we will note some correlations in the descriptions of the visions that follow. As we consider the visions we will observe themes from the OT tabernacle and temple, such as lampstands (1:12, 13, 20; 2:1, 5; 11:4), the throne (figured by the ark of the covenant), the sea of glass (figured by the brass laver) and the four living beings (figures associated with the cherubim embroidered into the curtains and on the mercy seat) in chapters 4 and 5. We find the altar of sacrifice in 6:9, and the throne (ark) again in 7:9-17. The incense altar comes on the scene in 8:3-4, and an altar (probably the one in the outer court) is seen again in 11:1. The temple itself is specifically cited in 2:12, 7:15, 11:1-2, 19, 14:17 and in chapters 15-16. The temple is the center from which the 7 plagues are sent out (15:6) and one of the living beings comes on the scene again in 15:7. The settings change with chapter 17, and the rest of the visions move from the temple out into the two cities which are the main topics for the remainder of the book. As we read, and encounter all these visions, it may be helpful to keep in mind the short, apocalyptic picture presented to us in Heb. 12:
22. But to the contrary, you folks have approached so that you are now at Mount
Zion – even in a city of a continuously living God; in "Jerusalem upon heaven"
(or: in a Jerusalem pertaining to and having the character and qualities of a superior,
or added, heaven and atmosphere; or: in Jerusalem [situated] upon, and
comparable to, the atmosphere) – also among ten-thousands (or: myriads) of
agents and messengers (people with a/the message):
23. [that is] in (or: to) an assembly of an entire people (or: an assembly of all; a
universal convocation) and in (or: to) a summoning forth (or: a called-out and gathered
community) of firstborn folks having been copied (from-written, as from a pattern; or:
enrolled; registered) within [the; or: various] atmospheres (or: heavens), and in (or: to;
with) God, a Judge (an Evaluator and Decider) of all mankind, even among (or: to;
with) spirits of just folks (or: breath-effects from those who are fair and equitable and
in right relationship within the Way pointed out) having been brought to the destined
goal (perfected; finished; matured; made complete),
24. and in (or: to) Jesus, a Medium (or: an agency; an intervening substance; a middle
state; one in a middle position; a go-between; an Umpire; a Mediator) of a new and fresh
(young; recently-born) arrangement (covenant; settlement; a deposit which moves
throughout in every direction; a placing through the midst; a will and testament), and to and
in blood of sprinkling, and to One continuously speaking something superior to (or:
stronger and better than) Abel.
Furthermore, we should keep in mind that the temple-associated symbols in the visions will correspond to the new creation situation, i.e., the "temple" and its furniture would spiritually represent the corporate body of Christ that has been,
"jointly roused and raised (or: suddenly awakens and raises) [us] up, and caused [us] to
sit (or: seats [us]; = enthroned [us]) together within the things situated upon [thus,
above] the heavens within and in union with Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6).
One of the traditions that will be challenged in this work is the assumption that there is a reference to, or a depiction of, a "final" judgment in the letters to the communities, or in any of the visions in Revelation. A corollary of this view is that this Unveiling speaks about "the end of human history." This view will be disregarded, from being unsupported by the text. I suggest that we will find that the visions involve aspects that attended the change from the previous age of the Law into the age of the Messiah and the inauguration of the reign of the resurrected Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. A central focus of the entire book is the new creation, which encompasses all the metaphors in the book. Paul informed us,
"Consequently, since someone [is] within Christ (or: So that if anyone [is] in union with
[the] Anointed One; or: And as since a Certain One [was] in Christ), [there is] a new
creation (or: [it is] a framing and founding of a different kind; [he or she is] an act of
creatiion having a fresh character and a new quality): the original things (the beginning
[situations]; the archaic and primitive [arrangements]) passed by (or: went to the side).
Consider! New things have come into existence (have been birthed; or: It has become
new things; or: He has been birthed and now exists being ones of a different kind,
character and quality)" (2 Cor. 5:17).
In this overarching phrase, "new creation," which Paul affirmed here as having already come into existence, "is the 'center' of NT theology, comprehending within itself all other major themes and doctrines (e.g., covenant, temple, Israel, Jerusalem, justification, reconciliation and sanctification), though the ultimate goal even of new creation is seen to be God's glory" (Beale, ibid p 173 n 7; emphasis original).
In describing John's methods of expression as being the "literary form of symbolic parable," Beale instructs us that,
"Parables function in the same manner in Ezekiel and in Jesus' ministry. Therefore, the
appearance of parables in redemptive history signals judgment on the majority of the
covenant community" (ibid p 176). He insightfully points us to the "repeated use of the
hearing formula, 'the one having ears, let him hear,'" and referencing Isa. 6:9-10; Ezk. 3:27;
12:2, along with Mat. 13:9-17, suggests that this, "is not novel but in line with the prior
prophetic pattern.... intended both to open the eyes of the true remnant and to blind
counterfeit members of the covenant community." He goes on to inform us that, "The
hearing formula at the end of each letter anticipates the visionary parables in chs. 4-21,"
and that, "This means that the symbolic visions in chs. 4-21 are parabolic portrayals of the
more abstractly expressed material in chs. 2-3. Therefore, the letters broadly interpret the
symbolic visions, and vice versa.... John has patterned the series of trumpets and bowls
after the Exodus plague signs, which functioned both to harden the Egyptians, and to give
insight and redemption to Israel" (ibid p 177).
As Barclay points out,
"Paul received his gospel... by an apokalupsis from Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:12). In the
Christian assembly the message of the preacher is an apokalupsis (1 Cor. 14:6). It is used
of God's revealing to me of his own mysteries, especially in the incarnation of Jesus Christ
(Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:3)" (ibid p 22).
Nik Ansell concludes,
“God’s judgment on Israel, carried out by the Romans, is acted out by Jesus in his
‘cleansing’ of the Temple and his cursing of the fig-tree (see Mk. 11:12-25 and 13:28-31). In
the coming destruction, he said, the Son of Man would be vindicated (see Mk. 13:40). This
judgment / vindication, which is described in terms of de-creation and enthronement, is also
a main theme of the Book of Revelation” (“Hell: ’The Nemesis of Hope?’ in “Afterword,” Her
Gates Will Never Be Shut, Hope, Hell, and the New Jerusalem, Bradley Jersak, Wipf &
Stock, 2009 p 202-3).
Dan Kaplan alerts us to the use of “creatures” and “animals” here, and throughout all metaphorical passages in Scriptures: they all represent people or domination systems created by people. This is a key to unlocking the visions in An Unveiling.
As we have seen with the writings of Paul, this Unveiling that was given to John is deeply rooted in Israel's story. Keeping this in mind will facilitate our comprehension. In his Introduction to Martin Heidegger’s, What is Called Thinking? (Harper & Row, Pub., 1968) J. Glenn Gray observes, “There is always a struggle to advance a new way of seeing things because customary ways and preconceptions about it stand in the way” (p x). In this same work, Heidegger makes these cogent remarks:
“[The] multiplicity of possible interpretations does not discredit the strictness of the thought
content. For all true thought remains open to more than one interpretation – and this by
reason of its nature…. multiplicity of meanings is the element in which all thought must
move in order to be strict thought…. Therefore, we always must seek out thinking, and its
burden of thought, in the element of its multiple meanings, else everything will remain
closed to us” (ibid p 71).
Much emphasis is given to the meanings of words, in this work, and many words are used to unpack the Unveiling. But let us not be, in the words of John O’Donohue, “impatient of words that carry with them histories and associations” (Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom, Perennial, Harper Collins 2004 p 67). The Unveiling from Jesus Christ begins with Himself, and then seven called-out, covenant communities (seven being a symbol of the “complete” body of Christ in John’s day), and ends with a picture of this same entity in its developed, world-wide form that represents the resurrected, reunited Israel: a City with twelve gates, but that is now founded upon the twelve original disciples of Jesus, and ministers Life to all humanity. The drama that will unfold in the following pages has its roots in the Tanakh, from the Torah, to the Prophets and the Writings, and it finds its fruition in the Words of Jesus, as well as in the writings of Paul, Peter, Jacob, Judah and John – and now by John in a sparkling array of apocalyptic symbols, figures and visionary metaphors. The time of its fulfillment was in John’s day, but it contains levels of interpretation that have applied to humanity ever since that time. As to the nature of this Unveiling, although it is quite different from other NT letters that were written to the called-out communities, we should keep in mind that these 1st century cities received knowledge about Jesus as the Anointed One through means of a “disclosure” of the Good News. Their eyes were “unveiled” concerning the nature of the true, Creator God, and His Son, Jesus – known as “the Christ,” or, “the Messiah (for the Jews).” Through the teachings of Jesus, Paul, John, Peter, and others, all covenant communities of that period were expecting some sort of “coming” of Christ, in their day. In the words of Jaroslav Pelikan (Whose Bible Is It?, Viking, 2005 p 226), each group was, “an apocalyptic community.” So it would not have been strange for those in Asia Minor to receive this Unveiling from John.
The information divulged in the Unveiling came through the divine Logos laying its message out for the called-out, covenant communities in Asia Minor. In 1:2, below, we are informed of John “who witnessed (or: gives testimony and evidence of) the Word of God (or: God’s Logos).” Then in 1:9, John tells us that he, “was within the island called Patmos because of God’s Word (or: the Logos, which is God).” We find a similar statement in 20:4, below, and in 19:13 John sees a vision of the Christ-figure, and, “His Name is being called "The Word of God (God’s Logos).” The use of this term, Logos, may be an allusion to the Prologue of John’s Gospel, “In [the Logos] was Life, and that Life was the light of human beings” (Jn. 1:4). In Jn. 1:11, we see that, “It (or: He) came into Its (or: His) own things (possessions, or people), and Its own (or: His own) people did not receive It (or: Him) and take It (or: Him) to their side.” Upon citing this verse, Niels Henrik Gregersen observes, “What is said here [in Jn. 1:11] eventually is that the Logos is ‘at home in the universe’” [brackets added]. Then referencing Jn. 19:30, where Jesus said, “It is accomplished,” Gregersen concludes that,
“The process of incarnation was not fulfilled until the end of the life of Jesus on the cross….
The death of Jesus, then fulfills the self-divesting nature of the divine Logos for all sentient
and suffering beings, human or animal. And the Logos would be Light not only for every
human being entering the world, but also the ‘Light of the world’ and the ‘Light of life’ (Jn.
8:12)….Seen from this historical context and applied to today’s context of an informational
universe, the divine Logos could be seen as the informational resource active in the world of
creation….The ‘flesh’ of the material world is by John seen as saturated by the presence of
the divine Logos, who has united itself with the world of creation…” (Information and the
Nature of Reality; From Physics to Metaphysics, edited by Paul Davies and Niels Henrik
Gregersen, Cambridge University Press, 2010 p 343-46).
I share this quote to encourage the reader to look for the divine Logos (Christ) throughout the entire Unveiling, just as Jesus, “beginning from Moses, and then from all the prophets, continued to fully interpret and explain to (or: for) them the things pertaining to (or: the references about) Himself within all the Scriptures” (Lu. 24:27). The divine Logos now inhabits His temple (us) and continues being the informational resource that lives within us, which can unlock for us the symbols and figures of the Unveiling. Don K. Preston writes, “Revelation is a book of Hebraic Apocalyptic language. The Western reader wants to think prosaically, while the Hebraic world was one of metaphor, poetic imagery and hyperbole” (“Objection Overruled!, “Fulfilled! Magazine, Vol. 12, Issue 1 p 18).
The fresh, expanded translation of the Greek text, below, will not only provide the reader with more information from the grammar of the Greek, in the Unveiling, but, as Pelikan said, in reference to the New English Bible of 1970, may it be found, “in the freshness of a new translation, and stop speaking in clichés and begin to address the reader directly” (my paraphrase; ibid p 229). To ease the reading of the many quotes from my translation of other NT books that have been inserted into my comments, I have shortened, or eliminated some of the parenthetical expansions that appear in that volume. May this work inform our reading of the text as we investigate this Unveiling. “Only the book of Revelation provides a fitting conclusion to the story begun in Genesis. With its bookends of Genesis and Revelation the Bible takes us from creation to new creation” (Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, Waterbrook, 2017 p 185).
For your edification and God’s glory,
Jonathan P. Mitchell
Observations on John
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If you like the Amplified Bible, this translation unpacks more Word!
GOD'S MESSAGE OF
WHICH BRINGS GOD'S
GIFTS OF HIS SPIRIT,
HIS LIFE, HIS GRACE,
HIS POWER, HIS
FAIRNESS, HIS PEACE
AND HIS LOVE