The author of the book introduces himself with the words “I, John” at least four times throughout the narrative. The Revelation of Jesus Christ was given to the apostle John while he was a prisoner in exile on the lonely island of Patmos, a rocky outcrop in the Aegean sea.
John was the author of the gospel bearing his name as well as three other epistles he wrote to the various churches established throughout the Roman Empire. John writes of Jesus in a personal and intimate way. The opening chapter of the first epistle of John declares that John wrote about what he had seen and handled regarding the Word of Life. He was clear that the experiences and exhortations he shared with the church were a result of his own personal experience walking in the presence of Jesus.
The first lesson John teaches us through his writing is this; you can’t share what you don’t have.
Eusebius, one of the early church fathers and historians refers to the author of the book of Revelation as the Elder John. Eusebius indicates that he had a personal relationship with John and that he was heavily involved in the work of the church at Ephesus, probably in relation to the training school that had been set up there and developed during the latter part of the first century,
John was the last surviving disciple, all the others having died a martyr’s death. John is said to have been summoned to appear in Rome before the Emperor Domitian where he was tried for his faith. John was eloquent, articulate and extremely intelligent. Domitian and those present at the trial could not strike down any of his arguments.
Enraged, the Emperor ordered that he be thrown into a boiling vat of oil. Miraculously John survived the ordeal and came out of the oil unscathed. Writing about it in the book The Acts of the Apostles Ellen White comments “But the Lord preserved the life of His faithful servant, even as He preserved the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace” Domitian then sentenced his to a life in exile imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos. This was believed to have been around 94 or 94 A.D.
When Domitian died the Emperor Nerva took the throne of the Empire and freed all political prisoners and it is believed that John returned to Ephesus.
The introduction of the book indicates that it is The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; (Revelation 1:1)
It was, in that sense, a prophetic book, revealing to God’s people not only the character of Jesus but also the events that would occur immediately before and surrounding his second coming.
Revelation is extremely unique both in form and symbolism. John declares that the book was given to him by special Divine revelation; The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John; Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw (Revelation 1:1-2)
Throughout the Revelation, John portrays Jesus as seated at the right hand of the Father, awash in his glory and taking on the role of high priest and minister in the heavenly sanctuary. The climax of the book comes when Jesus is seen as a conquering king leading the armies of heaven into battle and gaining a decisive victory over the forces of evil.
The entire prophetic structure of the book of Revelation is built around the person of Jesus Christ. He is the central figure. While the gospels reveal Jesus as the lamb of God, Revelation reveals him as the King of Glory deserving of our honor and undivided worship.
The book was written primarily for God’s servants and His church. It was sent to the seven churches in Asia. Though these churches were not the most important in Christendom they were strategically located along the Imperial postal route of the Empire. They were populous cities, easily accessible and teeming with life, art, and culture from all corners of the Empire.
The postal highway was constructed around 133 B.C. and wound its way through the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
While each of the messages was written specifically for the churches and presents advice for problems the churches were facing at the time, the messages are also prophetic in that they represent the seven phases of the Christian church throughout history. Each message is written not just for the church it was meant for but also for the epoch it represents.
The messages are a fitting reminder that Jesus cares about His people and His church. Every message is handcrafted to reach us where we are at and to wake us up and prepare us for what is coming.
In His desire to see us safely home. Jesus doesn’t mince words or spew trite platitudes. He is direct, unflinching, and above all tender in both his encouragement and admonishment. As the Spirit says, he that has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to every one of us who profess to be Christians.