December 16, 2007
Revelations is perhaps the most misunderstood and misapplied book of the New Testament. However, Joseph Smith called it “one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written” (HC 5:342). Borrowing from Jim F.’s notes: “An angel told Nephi that the things John wrote are “plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men” (1 Nephi 14:23)—though it may be important to remember that the angel was speaking to someone who said something similar of Isaiah (2 Nephi 25:4).
Speaking of the symbols in Revelation, Joseph Smith said:
Whenever God gives a vision of an image, or beast, or figure of any kind, He always holds Himself responsible to give a revelation or interpretation of the meaning thereof [e.g. D&C 77 and D&C 130], otherwise we are not responsible or accountable for our belief in it (Teachings 291).
It is not very essential for the elders to have knowledge in relation to the meaning of beasts, and heads and horns, and other figures made use of in the revelations; still, it may be necessary, to prevent contention and division and do away with suspense. If we get puffed up by thinking that we have much knowledge, we are apt to get a contentious spirit, and correct knowledge is necessary to cast out that spirit.
The evil of being puffed up with correct (though useless) knowledge is not so great as the evil of contention. (Teachings 287).”
I love Joseph’s last line here, making the point that even “correct” knowledge can be considered useless. What does this teach you in relation to your own scripture study and teaching?
I suggest you read the Bible Dictionary entry in the LDS KJV regarding Revelation for an LDS perspective on the book to begin with.
Some Christians cite Revelations 22:18-19 in reasoning that no other scripture can be considered after the New Testament (i.e. Book of Mormon, D&C, etc.). Dating Revelations sheds some light on this misconception. Though Revelations finds itself the caboose of the New Testament, it was not the last to be written. In fact, the Gospel of John (same author as Revelations who identifies himself 4 times in the book [1:1,4,9; 22:8]) holds the esteemed position as the final word in the New Testament. Go to John and read exactly what those finals words are: John 21:25 “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” What does this verse mean to you?
Dating the text of Revelation is a matter of some debate, though it is most commonly considered to have been written while John was exiled to the island of Patmos (probably a Roman penal colony), for his efforts as a Christian missionary, at the beginning of the significant persecution of the church. This “official” persecution of Christians occurred under Nero after the great fire of AD 64 in Rome, though the persecution appears to have been limited to Rome. Another possible dating of Revelations is during the reign of Domitian putting it at 92-96 AD.
Revelations’ original Greek title was apokalypsis, meaning “uncovering” or “unveiling.” What does this remind you of? What is being unveiled? Ask yourself this question throughout your reading of the book.
Apocalyptic literature is a genre into which several Old Testament books fall, like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and most notably Daniel. Additionally the Book of Mormon fits this category with passages such as 1 Ne. 8 and 1 Ne. 11-14. The characteristics of Apocalyptic literature is writing “with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient…[and is] intended to interpret the present, earthly circumstances in light of the supernatural world and of the future, and to influence both the understanding and the behavior of the audience by means of divine authority.”–Colins, Semeia, 9. Additionally, this type of literature is highly symbolic.
Revelations includes “things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1), “all the things that he saw” (Rev. 1:2) and “things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (Rev. 1:19), leading the reader to believe that the book is a compilation of many revelations. However, the first line of the book points us to a singular revelation: “revelation of Jesus Christ.” This could be interpreted as a revelation FROM Jesus to John or a revelation ABOUT Jesus to John. I tend to take the latter view, with the first going unspoken since by definition revelation comes from God. With this in mind, I’d like to quote from “Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament” by Holzapfel, Huntsman & Wayment, pg. 283: “…the visions that John recorded are intended to more fully unveil the resurrected, glorified Jesus Christ in his majesty and power, as well as reveal his role in history. … John was given a revelation about Jesus Christ. Such an interpretation encourages readers to see what the individual revelations in Revelation teach about Jesus Christ and how the experiences of believers and unbelievers are shaped by their acceptance or rejection of him.” I think we can gain the most from Revelations with this approach, seeking Jesus within its text. This is the aim of my post.
But, just for fun & your Gee Whiz Collection: Revelations is written in the worst Greek found in the New Testament (why do you think so?); Modern revelation confirms John the apostle, the son of Zebadee, as the author of Revelations (1 Ne. 14:18-27; Ether 4:16; D&C 7:3;77); the reason for the increased hostility toward Christians at this time was due to emperor worship (believing Caesar to be diety and worshipping him instead of Jesus); the number seven (7) is used FIFTY-TWO (52) times throughout the book: there are 7 beatitudes, 7 churches, 7 spirits, 7 golden lampstands, 7 stars, 7 seals, 7 horns and 7 eyes, 7 trumpets, 7 thunders, 7 signs, 7 hills, and 7 kings as well as other sevens–Symbolically, the number 7 stands for completeness.
Revelation Chapter 1:
Note the JST changes found in the Appendix.
v. 1: What do you learn about Jesus Christ in this verse? Ask yourself this question, verse by verse. I think you’ll be very suprised in what you’ll learn, if you haven’t done this exercise before. Who is the “him” in this verse?
v. 3: Who will be blessed? How will they be blessed? How were things “read” in John’s day? Would this imply that “proclaiming” the message of Revelation brings blessings to the reader/proclaimer? What does “keep” mean? The Greek here is “tereo”. Pronunciation: tay-reh’-o; Origin: from teros (a watch); with Definitions: 1) to attend to carefully, take care of; 1a) to guard; 1b) metaph. to keep, one in the state in which he is; 1c) to observe; 1d) to reserve: to undergo something. See here. What “things” are to be “kept?” What does this teach about Jesus?
v. 4: See HERE for a map of the 7 congregations (churches) addressed. Or go to your bible maps, #20 titled “Paul’s 2nd Journey,” where 5 of the cities are shown with Philadelphia & Laodicea not shown (to the right & down with Laodicea a bit south east of Ephesus. What do you make of this somewhat circular pattern? Why does the circle begin at the “bottom” and end at the “bottom” of the circle? Who is sending the greeting of grace and peace here. Read through v. 7. Is it God the Father, or his son, or the servants of God, including John or all of them?
v. 5: What is a “faithful witness,” “the first begotten of the dead,” “prince of the kings of the earth?”
v. 6: Notice the reciprocal blessing here: God+ sends his blessings and then blessings/honor/praise/worship is returned from mankind. Where have you heard similar language to that found in this verse?
v. 7: This is an allusion to Dan 7:13. Why?
v. 8: Gee Whiz-“the beginning and the ending” is believed to be a scribal insert. Why? What does leaving that phrase out do for the text?
v. 9-10: Where is John and what is he doing?