Apocalypses: Revelation of John

Apocalypses

Time Period

60–100 CE, with content from across a range of time.

Pseudonym

John was the author of at least some of the content, but a redactor used the name for himself in his additions.

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things.

Angelic Guide

John receives his guide in the final quarter of the book.

Then one of the seven angels … said to me, ‘Why are you so amazed? I will tell you the mystery …’

Cosmogony

(n/a)

Primordial Events

(n/a)

Historical Review

The symbolism is too dense to identify the precise historical events, but chapter 12 seems to be summarizing the Gentile dominion over Israel leading up the rise of the Roman Empire.

Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.

After-the-fact Prophecy

This is mostly restricted to small parts of chapters 13 and 17. The final kingdom of the world (Rome) will be ruled by a sequence of seven kings, followed by an eighth (Domitian) who is one of the first seven (Nero Redux). He then predicts the return of Jesus during that time.

‘This calls for a mind that has wisdom: the seven heads are … seven kings, of whom five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain for only a little while.’

Persecution

There are visions of the righteous dead, and the author twice borrows from Daniel 7 almost verbatim.

The beast … was allowed to make war on the holy ones and to conquer them.

Social Upheaval

The infamous ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse’ disrupt worldly activities.

Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand, and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a day’s pay, and three quarts of barley for a day’s pay, but do not damage the olive oil and the wine!’

Resurrection

Unusually contains a two-stage resurrection. Martyrs of the persecution are raised first, then everyone else a thousand years later

I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. … They came to life and reigned with the Messiah for a thousand years.

Judgment

The spiritual forces are sentenced to eternal torment, and the dead are raised to be judged for their works.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.

New Creation

The righteous live in a paradise-like new Jerusalem in a recreated universe.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

Sources

Sources or layers of redaction in the Revelation are more hypothetical. My own theory is this:

Most of chapters 4–9, 15–16, and parts of chapters 11 and 20–21. A highly structured apocalypse was written by a Christian named John sometime in the range of 60–80 CE. John begins in the heavenly temple, and present three sets of seven judgments (seals, bowls, trumpets) as the visions move deeper into the temple, concluding with resurrection and final judgment.

Chapters 12–14, 17–19, and parts of 20–22. A more story-like apocalypse was written by a Judean during the rule of Domitian. The author symbolically describes the dominion of the Roman Empire over his people, anticipating the destruction of Rome and the Messianic War. After a thousand year messianic kingdom, evil is definitively punished and the righteous live eternally in the new world.

Chapters 1–3, 10, and most of 22, with some other interpolations. A redactor combined the two other apocalypses, rearranging some of their contents. He added new opening and closing chapters to turn the entire work into an epistle.

Units

1: John opens his epistle to the seven churches. He receives a vision of Jesus.

2–3: Jesus addresses the seven churches in small, individual epistles.

4–5: John is taken to the heavenly temple. He sees a lamb receive a scroll from God.

6.1–8.1: John sees the lamb open the seven seals of the scroll. The seventh seal is preceded by a vision of Israelite elite and Gentile martyrs.

8.2–11.19: John sees seven angels with seven trumpets. The seventh trumpet is preceded by a vision of an angel carrying a small scroll, and two prophets killed by a beast.

12.1–13.18: John sees a dragon attempt to kill a pregnant woman, who gives birth to the Messiah.

14.1–5: John sees the lamb on Mount Zion with the Israelite elite.

14.6–20: John sees a series of angels announcing the punishment of the beast and of Babylon.

15–16: John sees seven angels pour seven bowls of plagues on the world.

17.1–19.10: John sees a vision of Babylon as a prostitute riding the beast. An angel interprets the vision.

19.11–20.10: John sees the Messiah appear and defeat the beasts and dragon, and rule for one thousand years.

20.11–22.5: John sees visions of the new creation.

22.6–21: John closes his epistle to the seven churches.

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