The Book of Revelations
The Book of Revelations is placed at the end of the New Testament of the Bible, much after the Gospels ( which describe the life of Christ ) and even after the Acts of the Apostles, letters of Paul, etc. However in fact it was probably written long before the Gospels, and it is probably one of the earliest part of the New Testament, and gives us an idea of what early Christianity was like.
. Many say it was written during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, who ruled from 74 to 88 A.D. and some say it was written even earlier, around 70 A.D. whereas the Gospels as they exist today were probably written at least 100 years later or even the 3rd century A.D.
The Book of Revelations is a fascinating work, largely symbolic and allegorical, with hidden meanings, unlike the rest of the New Testament, and needs to be understood in its historical context to get to know its true meaning.
In its early period, Christianity was a persecuted religion. Rome was then a powerful, huge Empire around the Meditteranean. However, only a handful of Romans were rich, while most were either slaves or poor free Romans. There was a huge gulf between the handful of rich who lived in luxury, and the rest who lived in terrible conditions of poverty. Hence Christianity came as a religion offering some degree of social emancipation to the poor and oppressed.
The writer John ( not to be confused with John the Apostle who wrote one of the Gospels, or John the Baptist ) had a hatred of the oppressive Roman rule, and preached resistance to it ( unlike Paul who preached cooperation vide Romans Chapter 13 ). This was dangerous at that time as Rome then was at its zenith of great power. Hence it was perilous to condemn it in direct language, and instead had to use symbols, allusions and allegorical language.
Thus, Rome is called Babylon, and a whore ( Revelation 17 ). She is also called a beast with 7 horns, the number 7 referring to the 7 hills on which Rome was built. ( Revelation 13 ). Rome, which oppresses people, will be utterly destroyed ( Revelation 18 ), and the Kingdom of God will arise in its place ( Revelations 19,20 and 21 ) in which those who follow the Christian path will be in heaven, while the sinners and oppressors will be in a bottomless pit of fire and smoke.
There is also mention of a beast, an anti Christ, who is not dead but will return to oppress the people. The number of this beast is mentioned as 666 ( Revelation 13 ) What does the number 666 signify ?. This was discovered by a researcher in the 18th century.The letters of 666 are actually written in Hebrew, which places a higher significance on numbers meaning words and words meaning numbers than ancient Greek. The writer was very clearly trying to tell us something.
And sure enough, if we translate the Hebrew spelling of 666, we actually spell out ' Neron Kesar ' - the Hebrew spelling of Nero Caesar.
The Roman Emperor Nero who persecuted Christians died in 68 A.D. but thereafter there was a rumour in the Roman Empire that Nero was not dead but was planning to return ( see the books of the historians Seutonius and Tacitus ).
There is no mention of a Trinity in the Book of Revelations, but instead 7 Spirits of God ( Revelation 3.1 ), 7 angels, 7 stars and 7 candle sticks ( Revelation 1,2 ). This shows the difference between early Christianity and what it had become at the time of the Emperor Constantine.
There is no advocating submission before the authorities as Paul preached ( see Romans, chapter 13 ) or turning the other cheek, but a call for resistance.The God of the book of Revelations is not a God of love as depicted in the Gospels, but a God of Retribution who will avenge the persecution of Christians, and punish those who depart from the path of God ( Revelations 9, 11. Christ is a conqueror mounted on a white horse ( Revelation 6.2 )..
It is evident that the Book of Revelations was written when Christian theology as we know it today was not fully developed, and this too indicates its early nature. In fact early Christianity was aimed at reforming Jews, and was not meant to be a religion for non Jews. This is evident from Revelations 2.9 and 3.9 which talk of ' those who say they are Jews, but are not '.Thus the Book is addressed to Jews only, not Gentiles ( non Jews ). Revelation 7 mentions the names of the tribes of the Jews, which again indicates this book was addressed to Jews only.
Revelation 2 also mention ' that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols '. Now the pagans sacrificed to idols, while Christianity was against this practice. and it seems that eating things sacrificed to idols was a practice of some early Christian Jews too, which John wanted stopped.
Some early Christians also followed the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, which John regarded false ( Revelation 2.14 and 15 ).
The early Christians thought that the Apocalypse ( destruction of Rome ) would ' shortly come to pass ', and ' the time is at hand ', in other words would occur soon in their lifetimes, and would be followed by the Kingdom of God ( Revelation 1.1 and 1.3 ). Of course this did not happen, but the belief then made more people Christians, and the Christians firmer in their faith