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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation of Jesus Christ


Landscape on Patmos; traditional site of John's cave
is on the nearest hillside (the large, white building).
I finished my annual reading through the Bible (twice through the New Testament) a few days ago and have been thinking of what book to study and present on this blogspot through the rest of 2018. Since we went through Daniel's prophecy last year, it is logical to follow with the book of Revelation. So we begin today. If some of you are wondering about the study of Ecclesiastes, we will continue to post articles here intermittently from those immensely important observations of King Solomon.  


Contemporaries and successors of John

Before we look into the text of this book, we will first consider some interesting and important background. The writer, John, was the only surviving apostle, at the time he wrote this revelation and he lived to an extreme age. It was no wonder that a rumor circulated that John would live until Christ returned! John himself denied that presumption, which was based on the Lord’s answer to a question, asked by Peter, concerning John’s future: “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” John explained, “Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’” Basically, He was simply saying that it was none of Peter’s business.

The Isle of Patmos is located near the seven
churches of Asia Minor in present-day Turkey
He wrote his account of the life of Christ decades after the three synoptic gospels. John repeated little of their stories, but instead supplied additional information, which Matthew, Mark and Luke did not record. He had these Gospels in his possession and it was well established at the time that they were inspired Scripture. It is quite obvious that he believed that their work was accurate and that it did not need any more input from him. However, John saw that there were some acts and teachings of Christ that were left out, and his Gospel supplies these. Most importantly, he begins his Gospel before the beginning of time, and declares the presence of the Word of God as God, in conjunction with the Father, as time begins. Beginning in chapter 13 and continuing for several more, John gives the Lord’s intimate teaching to his closest disciples and in chapter 17, His intimate prayer with the Father. This apostle gives a briefer account of the Lord’s trial and crucifixion than the others, but, of course, no one could omit that vital part of any presentation of His life.

Inscription from 2nd or 3rd Century about
Vera, a priestess of Artimus (Diana).
The apostle wrote this book of Revelation later still, as the final touch to the full canon of Scripture, near the close of the first century. He had been exiled by the Roman Caesar Domitian, on the island of Patmos, confined to an area 30 miles in circumference, when he received it. He was not a prisoner, but had free access to the entire island, which was sparcely populated. I wonder if the visions of John coincided with the landscape of Patmos, with its beaches, the sea (13:1, among many other references), other islands (6:14, 16:20) and volcanic mountains (8:8) in plain sight. The island was given over to idolatry, with temples to Diana, Apollos, and Aphrodite. An inscription has survived from the Second or Third Century, referring to a priestess of Diana.

Domitian was of the Flavius family and reigned after his older brother, Flavius Titus, who was Caesar from 79-81 A.D., after completely destroying Jerusalem en 70 A.D. He was a firm believer in traditional Roman religion, therefore John's honor, as the last surviving apostle of Christ, was a particular threat. Domitian died in 96 A.D., and John was released, along with all the other 'political' prisoners, by the Roman Senate. He spent the rest of his life in Ephesus, dying during the reign of Trajan (53-117 A.D.). 

What is important is that it was certainly written after 70 A.D., when Jerusalem was besieged and destroyed by Titus. The Jews lost their homeland and were scattered, eventually, among all nations. Therefore, John could not have been prophesying of that event, but of future ones that have not been fulfilled to this day.

Because this book was written much later than the rest of inspired canon, I find writings of contemporaries of John and immediate successors of biblical characters to be very interesting. They were connected with the seven churches of Asia, to which the Revelation is addressed. We are to expect no more inspired writings of inerrant Scripture after Apostle John died. These are not inspired writers, but church fathers, who experienced first-hand or second-hand, apostolic doctrine. Because this is so, we lean heavily upon their interpretation of the New Testament.

Rev.13:1 (Amp.) "I stood on the sandy beach." This is the
only sandy beach on Patmos.
Some of these were called bishops. Please do not define this position in modern terms, in which a bishop is placed over an area with a number of churches. This was not so in New Testament times. There are three titles, given throughout, which apply to the leader of a local church. They are pastor, one who feeds the flock of God, elder, who leads by example, and bishop, which means overseer. In Revelation these were called angels, which translates messengers and can be applied to humans, as well as heavenly beings. These were their responsibilities and there were no officers or positions of authority, above those in the local church. By the way, I find no ruins of church buildings before the Fourth Century, except for a "House Church" from 281 A.D in Syria.

Dates concerning the lives of certain contemporaries of John are not precise, so I present the approximate years, relating to them. They include Hermas, who authored The Shepherd, from about 100 A.D. Ignatius was bishop of Antioch, 70-107 A.D., when he was martyred. He wrote several letters to the Ephesians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrneans, other churches and to Polycarp. Papias was bishop of Hierapolis, near Laodicea and Colosse, at about 110 A.D. Polycarp was a good friend of John. He died by martyrdom at the age of 86, between 148 and 169 A.D. He was probably the angel of the church of Smyrna, therefore one of the seven, to whom Christ commanded John to write a personal, specific message.

Testimonies of people, acquainted with the above and their successors, involved in the churches of Asia Minor, have much to say about the book of Revelation. These early writers believed in a literal Millennium. Justin Martyr (139-161 A.D.) stated that the Revelation was written by John, one of the twelve apostles of Christ, and quotes from it, concerning the Millennium of the saints, and a general resurrection and judgment. Melito was bishop of Sardis and therefore a successor of one of the seven angels in Revelation 2 and 3. Sardis was severely reproved, yet this bishop ascertains its authenticity. Theophilus of Antioch (180 A.D.), quoted from Revelation, as did Apollonius, who lived in Asia Minor in the end of the Second Century.

Recent restoration (2016) of John's traditional cave,
uncovered doors and windows.
Iranaeus (about 180 A.D.) was an intimate friend of Polycarp and quoted repeatedly from John’s Revelation in his book Against Heresies. He was originally from Smryna, but became to bishop of Lyon, France. He was a chief warrior against gnosticism. Concerning the number 666 and the name of the antichrist, he said, “We do not hazard a confident theory as to the name of Antichrist; for if it had been necessary that his name should be proclaimed openly at the present time, it would have been declared by him who saw the apocalyptic vision; for it was seen at no long time back, but almost in our generation, towards the end of Domitian’s reign.”

Many church fathers from the Second and Third Centuries refer to Apostle John and his revelation. Clement of Alexandria (about 200 A.D.) mentions John’s return from Patmos to Ephesus, where he died. Another, who wrote of John and Revelation was Origen (about 233 A.D.). I share these names with you, should you like to further investigate their writings.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Chapter 1

1. The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
2. who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
3. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.  

The words revelation and apocalypse are synonymous, meaning to uncover. The common modern usage of the word apocalypse or apocalyptic, relating to imminent disaster, is taken from the cataclysmic events described in this book. As always, we must keep our vocabulary in tune with biblical definitions.

John declares from the beginning that this is a revelation of Jesus Christ. It is the title of the book and there are two conclusions that we can draw from that statement: 1) Jesus Christ is the Revealer through whom the revelation is given or 2) He is the prime Subject, who is uncovered throughout the book. Both are true.

The first book that I wrote, I suppose, somewhere between 1987 and 1990, was entitled, The Christ of the Apocalypse, and in it, I concentrated only on the portrayal of Christ throughout, without attempting to look at Revelation prophetically. I may quote extensively from that writing, as we come to the particular portions in our study, where Christ is portrayed.

Actually, an angel is sent to show John the signs of future events and, from the beginning, God has in mind that the book should become the final addition to the entire scriptural canon. He sends it for all His servants in all places and throughout the age of the church and the revelation begins to unfold immediately.

John bares record that this is the inspired word of God, it is a continuation of the complete testimony of Jesus, which he began in his Gospel, and he is a trustworthy witness of the things that he saw (see John 20:30-31; 21:24). A sad situation in the church today is, not only a shunning of prophecy, but an actual ridicule of it and scorning for those, who emphasize it. God, through John, pronounces a blessing on those, who study prophecy, and keep it close in their thoughts. They are to be attentive to it and heed the warnings. The fulfillment begins now, at the time when the inspired writings come to an end and continue to this day.


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