The Book of Revelation was written in the first century, penned by the apostle John. But as we’re told in the first verse, it is the “revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him ….” The word revelation is the Greek, apokalypsis. Literally it means a laying bare, which we can take to mean holding nothing back, showing everything. In this case, it is a book of revealing.
To most people, this would appear somewhat of a mystery in that the Book of Revelation appears to be one of the most confusing in all the Biblical record especially as our modern day connotation of the word apocalypse, rather than a revealing, is one of worldwide catastrophe, doomsday, the great tribulation that has yet to occur. However, the word apokalypsis, or the verb form, apokalypto is used in nearly half of the New Testament's 27 books.
Verse one also states, “… to show his servants things which must shortly come to pass ….” This, too can be a bit confusing as most people probably think of the Book of Revelation as something relating only to the future cataclysmic ending of the world. The word shortly in Greek is tachos, and does not refer to a popular fast food item. It does refer to something that happens with quickness or with speed however.
There are two sides to this coin. Some things in the Book of Revelation occurred very soon in the first century, and continue to this day. Others, such as the Lords day, or day of the Lords [see the Feature article, Guess Who's Coming To Supper?] will happen with suddenness, as a thief in the night, when we don’t expect it, hence with quickness. Yet all these events are connected in one story. Some occur at the beginning and others at the end.
For example, the first five seals in chapter six began occurring shortly after Christ’s resurrection. The first seal opened by Christ, “And I saw and beheld a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given to him: and he went forth conquering and to conquer.” This is a reference to the appearance of false prophets who were responsible for the division that Christ spoke of in Luke 12. Christ warned the apostles, saying “And many false prophets shall rise and deceive many.” This was during his ministry. And by the 60’s CE, the apostle Peter was writing that this was a fact. “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you ….” By the time the apostle John wrote 1 John in the latter half of the first century, he is saying, “... because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” [See the Feature article, Moving Forward for a detailed look at just how pervasive these false prophets have been].
As we can see from the apostles themselves, false prophets were revealed in the first century. Seals two, three and four, war, famine and pestilence were opened as well.
The fifth seal in Revelation six, “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar, the souls of them that were slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.” Christian martyrdom began with Stephen when the apostle Paul was still known as Saul and was instrumental in the killing of Christians before his conversion. Paul, himself, was martyred by 68 CE. Peter was martyred not long after Paul.
As we can readily see, the first five seals of Apokalypsis chapter six were opened in the first century.
Also mentioned in the Book of Apokalypsis, there are seven churches beginning in chapter one when John saw seven golden candlesticks. These represent seven eras of the ekklesia or church from the first century up to the advent of the kingdom of God, Laodicea being the last church era before the return of Christ. [See the Sneakers article, Seven Prophecies, Seven Churches].
Thus, the apokalypsis, or revealing, took place right away, beginning in the first century. What we think of as being the apocalypse or the “end of the world,” or age as it reads in Greek, actually occurs much later, time-wise. It occurs with the opening of the sixth seal in chapter six revealing the sixth empire, the beast and 666, the false prophet. This has yet to occur. It is discussed in detail in chapter five of The Hijacked Elephant. Also, see the Prophecy section Feature articles for related subjects.
In total, there are seven church eras, seven seals, and seven last plagues before Christ establishes the kingdom of God on Earth. It is during the seventh church era that the sixth and seventh seals will be opened, followed by the seven last plagues, all of which is what we commonly think of as “The Apocalypse.” "And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengence on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." [2 Ths. 1:6, 7] The word revealed here is apokalypsis. And the gospel, or good news of our Lord Jesus Christ is that he came to redeem those who sat in darkness, the lost sheep of the House of Israel. [Mat. 15:24; see the Feature article, What Exactly Is The Gospel?].
We should keep in mind when reading the Book of Revelation that the key players and events mentioned here originated in the Book of Genesis. Genesis is defined as an origin or beginning. Thus, apokalypsis is a revealing of what was intended from the beginning. It is the time period from Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” until it comes around full circle in Revelation 21:1, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away: and there was no more sea.” [See the Sneakers article, No More Oceans].
To fully understand the Book of Revelation, we need to fully understand that the Biblical record is one story from Genesis to Revelation. It is written to the same people. When we step back, the big picture is revealed and then we come to understand how the pieces of the puzzle aptly fit together.
Italics and [ ] are the author's.
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"Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you."