Skip to main content

1. Introduction

In this lesson, we look at chapter one of Jesus’ Revelation, the last Book in the Bible. This mini-series on Revelation is part of the major series on eschatology, starting with the lesson “Jesus’ Last Days Prophecy”. John is writing to the people of God during the first Century CE, who are suffering greatly, just as Jesus prophesied forty years earlier.

Being a prophetic book, Father God gives Jesus Christ a series of revelations. Jesus, in turn, gives it to an angel to give to John.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,

Revelation 1:1

It is not the Book of Revelations, which is made up of many revelations and visions. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His kingdom is crucially important because we will see the importance of Jesus’ authority as we read this Book.  

2. Authorship

The writer of this Book is undoubtedly the Apostle John. It is not some other John, as he saw no need to use any other title to differentiate himself from the apostle John everybody knew. John refers to himself being a witness to the word of God in the following verse:

who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.

Revelation 1:2

In this verse, we see a direct reference to John’s gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1

3. When Did John write Revelation?

Futurists teach that John wrote Revelation around 96 CE. This view is helpful to Futurists because it puts the Great Tribulation sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.  However, there are several problems with this date of writing. A growing number of theologians, myself included, believe that 96 CE as the time of writing is incorrect.

A. John on the Island of Patmos

Futurists say that Emperor Domitian exiled John to Patmos sometime between 81 and 96 CE. However, there is also solid historical evidence to say that John was on the island of Patmos during Emperor Nero, who reigned from 54 to 68 CE. Amongst this evidence is one of the earliest translations of the New Testament, called The Syriac from the 2nd Century, which introduces the Book of Revelation in the following manner:

The Revelation which was made by God to John the Evangelist in the island Patmos, into which Nero Caesar threw him.

The Syriac

B. Tertullian

Further to this, the historian Tertullian also puts John on Patmos much earlier, around the time of the Apostles Peter and Paul, both martyred much earlier, when he states:

Rome . . . where Peter had a like Passion with the Lord; where Paul bath for his crown the same death with John; where the Apostle John was plunged into boiling oil, and suffered nothing, and was afterwards banished to an island.


C. Epiphanius

Then there is the historian Epiphanius (c. 315-403 CE), who puts John’s first imprisonment under Claudius between 41 and 54 CE.

D. Jerome 

In his historical writings, Jerome (340-420 CE) declares that John was so frail and weak in 96 CE that people carried him to church. Yet, later in Revelation, Jesus prophesied that John was still to prophesy in different nations, 

And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”

Revelation 10:11

If John were feeble in 96 CE, he would not be able to travel.

Some have incorrectly stated that he could prophesy about many nations without travelling to the country. The Greek word for ‘about’ in this verse is:

ἐπί epi. Positionally on, over, at, against.

Except for this one verse, this very common word in Greek is never translated as ‘about’, so the scripture is more correctly translated:

And he said to me, “You must prophesy positionally on many peoples, tongues, and kings, on the nations”

Revelation 10:11

Therefore, John must have been much younger and travelled between his imprisonments by Nero and Domitian. This supports the claim that Revelation was written during Nero’s imprisonment.

E. The Temple Is Still Standing

The fourth reason that Revelation could not have been written in 96 CE is that Revelation 11 declares that the temple is still standing:

Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.

Revelation 11:1-2

The Roman armies destroyed the temple in 70 CE. They first surrounded Jerusalem before Passover 67 CE and finally left Jerusalem forty-two months later at the beginning of October 70 CE, just as Jesus prophesied.

Some have argued that John is to measure the spiritual temple. However, they cannot take this liberty because Jesus differentiates between the spiritual and natural temples in the same chapter. The heavenly temple is described later in the same chapter:

Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

Revelation 11:19

So when did John write the Book of Revelation?

In light of the Syriac New Testament, the historical writings, the Temple still standing, and the Great Tribulation starting, the Book of Revelation was written sometime between 63CE and 65 CE.

4. To Whom Was Revelation Written?

A. The Time is Near

Now that we have determined when it was written, we can say to whom the Book of Revelation was written. It was primarily for those who were alive at the time. 

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

Revelation 1:3

That is right; John is saying the time is near.  Like all New Testament scripture, Revelation can be applied today. However, we must never forget that it was primarily written to those alive at the time of writing. It is not regarding the current time 2000 years later. It was written to those entering the Great Tribulation, culminating in the death of 1,197,000 Jews in 70CE, nearly one-third of the Jewish world population.  

The apostles and early church fathers Luther, Calvin, Hodges, and Charles Spurgeon held the view that Revelation should be applied to the time of the Jewish wars and the destruction of Jerusalem.  

The revelation was written to those alive who are about to enter the Great Tribulation. God is talking to the humanity of the first Century, who doubted their suffering would end. When time is near, it is near, not after they die, 2000 years later.

B. Which Must Shortly Take Place

The other indicator to whom it is written is found in the first verse:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,

Revelation 1:1

This verse is an introduction to the whole Book. John is saying what is written in the Book must be interpreted in light of what was happening at the time of the writing of Revelation.

Others have argued that this verse, saying the time is near, is only related to the seven churches of Asia in the following chapters, not the whole of Revelation. However, this is part of the general introduction for the whole Book, not for the seven churches that starts in Revelation 1:4.  Although it relates to the seven churches, the following chapters from Revelation 4 onwards also apply because immediately after those letters to the seven churches, Jesus says the following:

After these things, I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice that I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”

Revelation 4:1

C. With These Things

Interestingly, the second-to-last word in this verse, “after,” is the Greek word μετά meta. God translates the word ‘meta’ in the New Testament as ‘with’ four times as much as “after.” 

In the verse above, the term “first voice” refers to the one who spoke at the start of the Book of Revelation, saying the time is near. So, it would more commonly be translated as:

“Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place soon with this .”

Revelation 4:1

What is in the following chapters from Revelation 4 starts immediately, it is not referring to 2000 years in the future.

5. Jesus Establishes His Kingdom

As previously mentioned, the Book of Revelation is about Jesus and His kingdom. Early in the Book, Jesus clarifies that the kingdom is here now.

John, the master theologian, informs us that Jesus is the ruler over the kings of the nations.

and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.

Revelation 1:5 

A. Kings and Priests

For Him to be ruler over kings does not mean He is in control; He reigns over them. In the next verse, He establishes how He reigns over them – through the people of God.

and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 1:6

B. Devil’s Authority Limited

This may seem counter-intuitive when we consider the suffering that is about to occur to the Jewish people and the Christians of the time. They are about to go through the Great Tribulation. However, this time is a limited period when the devil has the authority to kill the people of God. Daniel prophesied this:

“I was watching, and the same horn was making war against the saints and prevailing against them,

Daniel 7:21

We see the same theme repeated later in Revelation: the devil prevails over the church for a limited period:

When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.

Revelation 11:7

Reading on, we find God raises the witnesses:

Now, after three-and-a-half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.

Revelation 11:11

And this limited time is even more evident in Daniel’s prophecy:

until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favour of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.

Daniel 7:22

Here, we understand that the saints will possess the kingdom after a time of persecution. So, going back to Revelation 1, we start to see a picture the Jewish believers would have clearly understood. John is saying to the people of that time: “Jesus is king over the Caesars, and you are His kings and priests.” In the Book of Revelation, Jesus reveals great suffering, but this is for a limited period. Even though He is already king, the church will start to possess the kingdom if they take it by faith.

6. Revelation of Jesus Almighty

In verse 8, we find Jesus referring to Himself as the Almighty.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Revelation 1:8

He is taking on the Hebrew name from the Old Testament of El Shaddai:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.

Genesis 17:1

We have a full lesson on El Shaddai, where we find that El Shaddai is correctly translated in Hebrew as “like a woman nurtures at the breast.” Jesus is so mighty that He will stand up as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah to protect His Church, but with the children of God, El Shaddai is gentle, providing and protecting His family.

Indeed, Jesus uses similar terminology relevant to this chapter when He says:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

Matthew 23:37

Looking at the Greek translation of Almighty, we find an interesting truth, where Jesus uses the word:

παντοκράτωρ pantokratōr – which means all-ruling one. Again, He is not saying He is in control, but rather that He rules over His kingdom through His Church.

7. Coming in the Clouds

The next truth John brings is that soon after the writing of Revelation, Jesus will return on the clouds:

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

Revelation 1:7

For Futurists, the immediate thought is that this will still come in the future and that everybody will see Him coming on the clouds because of satellite TV and social media availability. However, this is contrary to what Jesus said Himself:

A. He will Come Within One Generation

Jesus starts his last days’ prophecy in Matthew:

Assuredly, I say to you; all these things will come upon this generation.

Matthew 23:36

He then finishes his prophecy on the last days in Matthew 24:34:

Assuredly, I say to you; this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

Matthew 24:34

When John wrote Revelation 1:7, he was thinking of the above words of Jesus. He says Jesus will come in the clouds before the 40 years are up. Why? Just a few verses earlier, Jesus says that His coming in the clouds will happen to this generation:

… and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Matthew 24:30

The whole lesson entitled Jesus’ Last Days Prophecy looks at the one-generation limitation in detail.

Remember that John is writing to those who were alive then; therefore, this must also have happened in the lifetime of this “last hour”. Before we ask the question, did Jesus come on the clouds during that time? We find another interesting point.

B. Those who Pierced Him

In the previous verse, we learn that those who pierced Him will see Him come.

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

Revelation 1:7

We quickly see an exciting truth: they who pierced Jesus will see Him coming on the clouds of heaven.

C. Caiaphas

Is God talking today to the Jews generally, or is He talking about those who saw Him specifically? Let us go back to the end of Jesus’ first advent. Jesus is about to die, standing before the High Priest of the time, Caiaphas.

Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you; hereafter, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Matthew 26:64

Jesus declares, “I say to you, hereafter you (the Greek word σύ or sy) will see the son of man…”.

According to grammar, the first word, you, is the personal pronoun of the second person singular.

In other words, it is to a single person. Jesus is talking to Caiaphas as an individual. 

Now, if we look at the second time the word is used, it is again you (the Greek word σύ or sy). And again, it is addressed to Caiaphas as an individual.

So Jesus is saying to Caiaphas, “You, Caiaphas, will see me coming on the clouds of glory.” The question is, “Is Jesus a true prophet?” Or is He a mystic who talks in riddles? I believe Jesus is a true prophet; therefore, Caiaphas would have seen Jesus coming on the clouds of glory. Let us find out if it is true that Jesus came on the clouds of glory and whether Caiaphas saw it.

Although Caiaphas was not going to be a high priest when he saw Jesus coming on the clouds of glory, he would have been alive at the time of Jesus’ coming as described. Because if this scripture refers to the future we are in now, then Jesus is a false prophet.

Understandably, this verse means everybody in the whole world will see Him. However, the words tribes and earth reveal an exciting truth. 

D. Tribes of the Earth

First, the word ‘tribes’ is the Greek word φυλή phylē, which in the New Testament is a reference to the twelve tribes of Israel. The Book of Revelation uses the word “tribe” twelve times, only referring to the Jewish tribes. 

Secondly, the word translated earth is the Greek word γῆ g. We can also translate this word as ‘promised land’.

Putting these two words together, it is evident that Revelation is saying that those of the tribes of the promised land will see the coming of Jesus on the clouds of heaven with power and glory. He is referring to the Hebrews.

8. Jesus’ Coming Over Jerusalem in 66 CE.

Now that we have seen that both Caiaphas and the Jewish people will see His coming, we need to see when this occurred.

Students of eschatology recognise the word “parousia”. Futurists often teach that parousia only means Jesus’ second coming. However, this is only partially true. Parousia is also a ubiquitous word used naturally for someone coming to see you. It is also used for the coming of the lawless one. 

A. Jesus Comes Six Times

There is separate in-depth teaching on the comings of Jesus. There are six times the word come is used for Jesus’ coming in the New Testament and the Book of Daniel:

  • His coming in the flesh (1 John 4:3; 2 John 7)
  • The commencement of His ministry (Acts 13:23-24)
  • Jesus’ transfiguration in Matthew 17 and 2 Peter 1:16-18 (parousia).
  • Jesus’ coming into heaven at His enthronement in Daniel 7:13 (Aramaic word הֲוָא hăwâ).
  • His coming in judgment of Israel, where the term erchomai is used.
  • And finally, His future and final coming are the words parousia and erchomai. Where it refers to Jesus’ coming for the final judgment, erchomai is used.

Again, I invite you to go through our lesson on Jesus’s six comings in detail. For now, we must affirm that those who pierced Him, specifically Caiaphas, would have seen Him. 

We have seen that there are six comings of Jesus, five of which have happened and one that is still to come in the future.  If Jesus was seen in the clouds of heaven with His armies, then there must be historical evidence for Jesus to be a true prophet. And yes, indeed, there is:

Jesus appeared over Jerusalem during Passover, three and a half years before its destruction in September 70 CE. There are three accounts by different historians:

B. Josephus’ Account.

Josephus, a historian of Jesus’ time, wrote these words:

On the twenty-first day of the month of Artemisius [Jyar], a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities

Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.

C. Pseudo-Hegesippus.

This historian, who was not a follower of Jesus Christ, had these words to say:

“A certain figure appeared of tremendous size, which many saw, just as the books of the Jews have disclosed, and before the setting of the sun, there were suddenly seen in the clouds chariots in the clouds and armed battle arrays by which the cities of all Iudaea and its territories were invaded.”

Pseudo-Hegesippus 44

D. Tacitus.

The historian Tacitus also confirms this event.

“In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour.”

Tacitus The Histories 5.13

These three historians confirm that there was a vision of armies, and so Caiaphas and the Jewish people saw it in 66 CE. The Romans surrounded Jerusalem in 67 CE, giving the Jews one last opportunity to repent and flee Jerusalem.

“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

Matthew 24:15-16

The abomination that causes desolation standing in the holy place refers to the Roman army surrounding Jerusalem. They could have left Jerusalem. Instead, three and a half years later, the four armies of Rome suddenly crossed the Euphrates River, catching the Jews by surprise, and laid siege to Jerusalem for its final destruction. Indeed Jesus came as a thief in the night, when they were least expecting it in Passover 70CE, destroying it five months later exactly as he predicted.

9. Apostasy

In ‘False Christs and Prophets’, we found that the spirit of the Antichrist was the teaching of Gnosticism. John taught much against Gnosticism, arguing that Jesus came in the flesh. He hated the teaching of Gnosticism so much that he refused to be in the same building as one of the leading Gnostic theologians. One-third of Christendom fell to this teaching during the great apostasy of John’s time. Jude, written before the destruction of Jerusalem, writes concerning this apostasy and uses the word erchomai linked to God’s coming judgement:

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes (erchomai) with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

Jude 1:14-15

So, we see that erchomai refers to God’s judgement on the apostates.

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,

2 Thessalonians 2:3

In this verse, we see the apostle Paul linking the apostasy to the Day of the Lord. Again, the word erchomai is related to coming judgment. This judgment occurred in the time after His appearance over Jerusalem in late 66 CE with the death of 1.2 million Jews in 70 CE.

10. Thief in the Night

Futurists talk about Jesus coming as a thief at night, instilling fear into people about a future Antichrist. Interestingly, the word erchomai is used when the Bible talks about the Day of the Lord coming as a thief in the night. 

You know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. When they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labour pains a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.

1 Thessalonians 5:2-3

We learnt from Wars and Rumours of Wars; this is precisely what happened. Jews worldwide gathered for the Passover of 70 CE, so much so that the city grew to over 1.2 million people. The four armies of Titus surprised them by coming across from their camp over the Euphrates River and surrounding them. They did not know where the armies were, and they had defeated the Romans three and a half years earlier, so they thought they were at peace and safe. This is a direct fulfilment of later in Revelation, where the four armies of Rome killed one-third of the Jews:

Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind.

Revelation 9:13-14

On the Day of the Lord, God’s wrath was indeed poured out upon the Jewish people who refused to repent.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things, the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Ephesians 5:6

Talking to the Jewish people, it was this salvation from the judgment that Peter was referring to when He said:

I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Shall be saved.’

Acts 2:19-21

11. Revelation Introduction Summary

  • Revelation was written in 63-65 CE.
  • It was written primarily to the people alive at the time
  • Jesus reveals Himself as the Son of Man, now ruling as King over His kings and priests.
  • Jesus is El Shaddai.
  • It describes the coming of Jesus on the clouds and the Day of the judgment as about to happen to those alive at the time, not sometime 2000 years later.

© Use by Permission Awakening Impact Ministries/Dr Neville Westerbeek van Eerten D.Miss. 2024

Leave a Comment