Lesson 1: Introduction Part I

From this we learn that this [book] is called an Apocalypse, that is, "revelation," which manifests those secrets which are hidden and unknown to the senses, and that unless [Christ] himself reveals them, he who perceives [the revelation] will not have the strength to understand what he sees. Bishop Apringius of Beja (6th century AD), Commentary on the Apocalypse 1.1

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There are five statements that we will be using to guide us in interpreting the last book in the New Testament canon, the book of Revelation:

  1. Jesus' revelation to John is linked to the Old Testament and Old Testament symbolism.  Although there is no single quote from the Old Testament books, the book of Revelation is filled with references to events, symbols and persons of the Old Testament.  One scholarly count is that there are 348 allusions which are traceable both by verbal and by contextual connection to the Old Testament.  Of the 348 references approximately 95 are repeated.  That is an average of more than ten references for each chapter.  Bible scholar Merril Tenney breaks them down even further to 57 Scripture references from the Pentateuch, 235 from the Prophets, and 56 from the historical and poetic books of the Old Testament (Tenney, Interpreting Revelation, pages 101 and 104).  Therefore, the book of St. John's visions cannot be properly interpreted without studying the references to the Old Testament events and the symbolism revealed in Old Testament Scripture.
  2. Jesus' revelation to John is revealed during heavenly liturgy. St. John received his visions "on the Lord's Day" (Rev 1:10) when he was "caught up" into the heavenly assembly where angels and saints worship God and the Lamb (Rev 4:1-5:14).  Throughout the book of Revelation the reader is aware that St. John is present in the heavenly assembly witnessing heavenly liturgy at the same time that the visions are revealed to him. 
  3. Jesus' revelation to John is a covenant lawsuit against Judah, prophesizing destruction for covenant abuses and violations.  The book of Revelation is a covenant lawsuit in much the same way God's prophets Isaiah, Hosea and Jeremiah delivered covenant lawsuits against the Northern Kingdom of Israel prior to the Assyrian conquest in 722 BC and the Southern Kingdom of Judah prior to the Babylonian conquest, which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/6 BC (i.e., Is 1:1-9; 34:8; Hos 2:4/2:2-15/13; 4:1-10; 12:3/2-3; Jer 1:14-16; 4:3-8; 11:1-17).  The covenant lawsuit in Revelation is a judgment that was announced by Jesus two days before His unjust trial and crucifixion in Matthew 23:33-36 when He prophesied that God's judgment against the murder of all God's righteous prophets by the Old Covenant people would recoil on those of His generation in Judah/Judea: In truth I tell you, it will all recoil on this generation (Mt 23:36).
  4. Jesus' revelation to John reveals Jesus Christ as Bridegroom of the Church, King of Kings and the High Priest of the heavenly Sanctuary.   Jesus is the King of the Kingdom of God He came to establish on earth (Mt 4:17; Mk 1:15), and He serves in the heavenly Sanctuary as both the sacrificial Lamb and the High Priest of the New Covenant people of God (Heb 8:1-3; Rev 5:6).
  5. Jesus' revelation to John is the unveiling of the New Israel - the New Covenant Bride is the universal Church and her role in God's plan for man's eternal salvation (Rev 19:1-9; 21:1-2).

The book of Revelation of is written in common Greek.  The Greek title is literally "The Apocalypse of John" or "The Revelation to John."  The word "apocalypse" is merely a transliteration into English of the Greek word apokalypsis, which means "revelation" or "revealing."  The title Revelation is from the Latin revelation, meaning "an uncovering; revelation."   Often the term apocalypse is confused with the Greek word apocryphal, which means "hidden" and refers to books for which divine authorship is believed to be falsely claimed.  Protestants apply the term to the seven Old Testament books that were dropped from the Jewish Old Testament canon in the Middle Ages and from the Protestant canon in the sixteenth century AD, but Catholics refer to those seven texts as Deuterocanonical, meaning "second canon."

Some apocryphal texts may also be apocalyptic literature, writings which focus on the eschatological future, i.e., divine judgment and the end of world history when the powers of darkness launch a final struggle against God.  Some narrative apocryphal literature that are non-canonical and therefore not judged to be Holy Spirit inspired texts that refer to events in the Old Testament are: 3rd Maccabees, the Book of Jubilees, the Books of Adam and Eve, and the Martyrdom of Isaiah.  Some New Testament era apocryphal (non-canonical) texts are the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and the Gospel of Judas (these are Gnostic documents which have always been judged by the Church as heresy). Other books considered by the Church to be non-canonical but worthy of study are the History of Joseph the Carpenter, and the Protoevangelium of St. James.  Books that are both apocryphal (non-canonical) and apocalyptic (focused on the final struggle in the "end times") are the Books of Enoch, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the Assumption of Moses.  Apocalyptic books of the Old Testament that are accepted in the canon include: the books of the prophets Daniel, Zechariah, Joel (2:1-11:4:1-21), Isaiah (chapters 13 and 24-27), Ezekiel (chapters 38-39), and Zephaniah (chapter 1:14-18).  The books of the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel have strong ties to Revelation.  The single example of this type of literature in the New Testament is the Apocalypse of John, also known as The Revelation to John, or the book of Revelation.

As a literary form apocalyptic literature became popular about 200 years before the birth of Jesus and remained popular until about 200 years after His Resurrection.  These works are characterized by the revelation of future catastrophic events that mark the end of time.  The visions associated with these revelations reveal the future in complicated symbolism which is sometimes, but not always, explained. The works of non-canonical apocalyptic literature have these major theses in common:

  1. Hopeless, "end of the world" message
  2. Obscure use of symbolism
  3. Vivid imagery

However, St. John's Apocalypse/ Revelation is unlike non-canonical apocalyptic literature:

  1. John's use of symbolism and imagery is not obscure like other texts. His imagery is firmly rooted in Old Testament texts.
  2. Unlike the pessimism found in other apocalyptic texts (i.e. the world will get worse and worse until it ends) John does not give up on world history but sees all of human history as the scene of divine redemption and the triumph of "The Lamb."
  3. John's concern is with ethical conduct as his readers take an active part in the unfolding of revealed prophecy (Rev 1:3; 16:15; 22:14).
  4. Unlike the non-canonical apocalyptic texts John's work is above all revealed divine prophecy, as St. John himself testifies (Rev. 1:3; 10:11; 22:7, 10, 18-19).
  5. Jewish apocalyptic literature of the first two centuries AD longs for "justice" in the destruction of the oppressive Roman Empire.  Christians did not want to destroy Rome; instead they wanted to convert Rome and to use the power of the Roman Empire to spread Christianity to the ends of the earth in fulfillment of Jesus' divine commission to His disciples in Matthew 28:19-20.

Biblical scholar David Chilton sums up these differences with the statement: The apocalyptists said: The world is coming to an end: Give Up!  The Biblical prophets said: The world is coming to a beginning: Get to work!" (Chilton, Days of Vengeance, page 26).

It is important to understand that in the book of Revelation, as in other parts of sacred Scripture, the "passing away" of heaven and earth is not necessarily the end of the world as we know it, nor is it necessarily the dissolution of the existing universe.  It was St. Peter' message in his great homily given during the Jewish Feast of Shavuot / Weeks (known as the Feast of Pentecost in the first century AD; see Acts 2:1) when he quoted from Joel 3:1-5 (Acts 2:16-21), announcing that the "Last Days" have come to mankind with the apocalyptic event of Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension.  St. Peter's message to the crowd of Jews on their way to the Temple to celebrate the feast that commemorated the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai was that those of his generation were now living in the "new and final" age prophesied by the prophet Isaiah as the time of "new heavens and a new earth" (Is 65:17; 66:22).

St. John's revelation is apocalyptic literature concerned with the apocalyptic events as they unfolded in the time after Jesus' ascension to the Father as the "gate" or "door of heaven" now stood open (Rev. 4:1)'the "door" of heaven having been closed since man's fall from grace in Eden but an event now made possible through Christ's sacrifice on the altar of the Cross (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1026).   In St. John's visions God's judgment unfolds as prophesied by Jesus in the synoptic Gospels'there is a "mini-apocalyptic" prophecy in every Gospel except the Gospel of St. John, perhaps because his prophecy was intended to be revealed in a separate book of sacred Scripture'the Revelation of Jesus Christ to His servant John.

                    The Synoptic Gospels versus Revelation The Judgment on Jerusalem

Chapter 6
Chapter 24
Chapter 13
Chapter 21
1. Wars: verses 1-2 Wars: verse 6 Wars: verse 7 Wars: verse 10
2. International Strife: verses 3-4 International Strife:
verse 7a
International Strife:
verse 8a
International Strife: verse 10
3. Famine: verses 5-6 Famine: verse 7b Famine: verse 8c Famine: verse 11b
4. Pestilence:
verses 7-8
    Pestilence: verse 11
5. Persecution:
verses 9-11
verses 9-13
Persecution: verses 9-13 Persecution
verses 12-19
6. Earthquakes
verses 12-17
verse 7c
verse 8b
Verse 11a
7. Judgment & destruction
verses 12-17
Judgment & destruction
verses 15-31
Judgment & destruction
verses 14-27
Judgment & destruction
verses 20-27
Michal Hunt © 2000

Views on Authorship and Authenticity through the Centuries

Many modern scholars believe that the author of this revelation is not St. John Zebedee, the Apostle.  The opening verses of the book identify the author as Jesus Christ (Rev 1:1), and the receiver and recorder of the revelation identifies himself as "John" five times: Rev 1:1; 1:4; 1:9; 21:2; and 22:8 (all Bible quotes in this lesson are from the New Jerusalem Bible translation, all links are teh New American Bible): 

  1. A revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him so that He could tell His servants what is now to take place very soon; He sent His angel to make it known to His servant John, and John has borne witness to the Word of God and to the witness of Jesus Christ, everything that he saw (Rev 1:1).
  2. John, to the seven churches of Asia... (Rev 1:4).
  3. I, John, your brother and partner in hardships... (Rev 1:9).
  4. I, John, saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride dressed for her husband (Rev 21:2).
  5. I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things (Rev 22:8).

The Earliest Testimonies Concerning Authorship in the Second Century AD:

Third Century Testimonies on the Authorship of Revelation:

Views on the Canonicity and Authorship of Revelation in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries:

Eusebius' statement is far from clear and his thinking may have been colored by the danger posed by the heresy of millenarianism.  Some modern scholars interpret Eusebius' statement to say that he regarded St. John the Apostle, John the Evangelist and John the author of the Apocalypse as one and the same John but then adds that if anyone prefers to consider that the Apostle-Evangelist John is not the author of the Apocalypse, then, in this view, it is probable that the author of the Apocalypse is "Presbyter John."  Other scholars point out that there is only one John'the Apostle and presbyter. 

Views on the Canonicity and Authorship of the book of Revelation in the Sixth through Sixteenth Centuries:

The Views of the Eighteenth Century Rationalists:

These scholars rejected all prophecy outright and therefore rejected the book of Revelation.  They denied St. John's authorship and used arguments based on what they considered internal evidence (some similar to those put forth by Dionysius of Alexandria) and on the basis of the passage in Bishop Eusebius' Church History.

The Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Views:

There is general disagreement among scholars - some Protestant scholars have expressed the opinion that the author of the book of Revelation could not be the same man as the author of the fourth Gospel given the differences in style and language. Other scholars, mainly Catholic Biblical scholars, accept that John the Apostle is the author given the evidence of the writings of the early Church Fathers and the strength of tradition that supports St. John the Apostle as the receiver of the visions in the book of Revelation.  Catholic scholars also point out that the differences in subject matter between the fourth Gospel and the book of Revelation can account for the differences in style (it was also common for the Apostles, as Bishops today, to use a secretary to record their letters and to make literary corrections; i.e. Rom 16:22), and they also point to the similarity in imagery between the two works, like the "living water" imagery and other unique passages in both books. 

Arguments against Johannine Authorship:

Arguments in Favor of Johannine Authorship:

The use of Johannine vocabulary, imagery, and theological themes are unique to the Gospel of St. John and Revelation.  Note: in quoting these Bible passages from the New Jerusalem Bible all the underlining is my emphasis.

  1. Water imagery:
    1. The term "living water" is used by St. John as a metaphor for God the Holy Spirit. See the Gospel of John chapter 4:7-15 in the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well: Jesus replied to her: If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me something to drink,' you would have been the one to ask, and He would have given you living water (Jn 4:10).  The same term is used by the woman in reply to Jesus in John 4:11: 'You have no bucket, sir,' she answered, 'and the well is deep: how do you get this living waterJesus' reply is: ...the water that I shall give him would become in him a spring of water, welling up for eternal life (Jn 4:13).  Also see John 7:37-39 when Jesus announced in the Temple on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles: Let anyone who is thirsty come to me!  Let anyone who believes in me come and drink!  As Scripture says, "From his heart shall flow streams of living water."  He was speaking of the spirit which those who believed in Him were to receive; for there was no Spirit as yet because Jesus had not yet been glorified.
    2. Compare those passages from the fourth Gospel to the use of water imagery in Revelation: (Rev 7:17)...because the Lamb who is at the heart of the throne will be their shepherd and will guide them to springs of living water..., and in Rev 22:1-2 (Trinity is expressed in this verse): Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear.  Also see the connection between "water" and "thirst" in Revelation and the Gospel of St. John: The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come!'  Let everyone who listens answer, 'Come!'  Then let all who are thirsty come: all who want it may have the water of life, and have it free (Rev 22:17)Compare the similarity between that verse and Jesus' statement in the Gospel of St. John 7:37: In the last day, the great day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried out: 'Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink!'
  2. The "Word of God" (Logos) imagery:
    The "Word of God" imagery in the prologue of the Gospel of John and in the First Letter of St. John: 
    1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God (Jn 1:1).
    2. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father (Jn 1:14).
    3. Something which has existed since the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have watched and touched with our own hands, the Word of life this is our theme (1 Jn 1:1).
    Compare those passages with "word of God" imagery in Revelation:
    1. A revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him so that He could tell His servants what is now to take place very soon; He sent His angel to make it known to His servant John, and John has borne witness to the Word of God and to the witness of Jesus Christ everything that He saw (Rev 1:1-2).
    2. And now I saw heaven open, and a white horse appear; its rider was called Trustworthy and True; in uprightness He judges and makes war.  His eyes were flames of fire, and He was crowned with many coronets; the name written on Him was known only to Himself, his cloak was soaked in blood.  He is known by the name, The Word of God  (Rev. 19:11-13).
    The only other use of "Word" in the Bible in this theological sense is in 2 Titus 4:2).
  3. "The Lamb of God" imagery:
    "Lamb of God" imagery in the Gospel of John:
    1. Look, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29).
    2. Look, there is the Lamb of God (Jn 1:36).
    This comparison with Christ is not found in the Gospels of Sts. Matthew, Mark or Luke.
    Compare these passages with the use of the same imagery in Revelation:
    1. I saw a Lamb standing that seemed to have been sacrificed (Rev 5:6).
    2. The Lamb came forward to take the scroll... (Rev 4:7).
    3. Then in my vision, I saw the Lamb break one of the seven seals...(Rev 6:1).
    4. I could not see any temple in the city since the Lord God almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple, and the city did not need the sun or the moon for light since it was lit by the radiant glory of God and the Lamb was a lighted torch for it (Rev 21:22-23).
    5. "Lamb" imagery connected to Christ is used 30 times in Revelation.
  4.  "Light" imagery:
    In Johannine writings "light" is a metaphor for Jesus Christ.  Light imagery in the Gospel of John and in 1 John:
    • What has come into being in Him was life, life that was the light of men (Jn 1:4).
    • The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone (Jn 1:9).
    • And the judgment is this: though the light has come into the world people have preferred darkness to the light because their deeds were evil (Jn 3:19-21).
    • And John 8:12 and 9:5: (8:12): When Jesus spoke again to the people He said: " I AM the light of the world: anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark but will have the light of life" (Jn 8:12).
    • As long as I AM in the world I AM the light of the world (Jn 9:5).
    • Also see John 11:9-10; John 12:35, 36 and 46; 1John 1:5, 7; 2:8-10.
    Compare with these passages with "light" imagery in Revelation:
    • I could not see any temple in the city since the Lord God almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple, and the city did not need the sun or the moon for light since it was lit by the radiant glory of God and the Lamb was a lighted torch for it (Rev 21:22-23).
    • The nations will come to its light and the kings of the earth will bring it their treasures.  Its gates will never be closed by day'and there will be no night there... (Rev 21:24-25).
    • And night will be abolished; they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shinning on them (Rev 22:5).

The Symbolic use of numbers in the Gospel of John and Revelation:

  1. Both books are arranged in a series of sevens: The number seven is used fifty-two times in the book of Revelation and the first chapter of the fourth Gospel builds to the climax of the "seventh day" using the words "the next day" and "on the third day" until the wedding at Cana in chapter two: day #2 = Jn 1:29; day #3 = Jn 1:35; day #4 = Jn 1:43; "On the third day" (Jn 2:1); four days plus three days = seven days.
  2. John's Gospel begins the countdown to the Crucifixion of Christ by announcing in that it is six days to the Passover (Jn 12:1).  Six is the number of man and symbolizes man in rebellion against God.  Jesus will be crucified the day after the Passover sacrifice, on a Friday, the sixth day of the week, but it is the seventh day from St. John's announcement in Jn 12:1.
  3. In Revelation the word "seventh' is used five times and a phrase using the number(s) seven is used thirty-five (5x7) times.  There are also multiple sevens as in the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2-3. According to Hebrew tradition every number has a symbolic significance.  Three, seven, ten, and twelve are known as the "perfect" numbers.  Seven is the second perfect number signifying fullness and perfection, especially spiritual perfection; it is also the number of covenant union and it is the number of the Holy Spirit.  For a list of sevens in the book of Revelation see the chart below:

The List of "Sevens" in Revelation

Churches 1:4; 2:1-3:22
Letters 2:1 - 3:22
Spirits 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6
Golden lamp-stands 1:12, 20; 2:1; 4:5
Stars 1:16, 20; 2:1; 3:1
Lamps of fire 4:5
Seals 5:1; 5:5; 6:1
Horns 5:6
Eyes 5:6
Angels 8:2, 6; 15:1, 6, 7; 15:8; 16:1; 17:1; 21:9
Trumpets 8:2, 6
Thunders 10:3, 4
Thousand people 11:13
Heads 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 7, 9
Crowns 12:3
Plagues 15:1, 6, 8; 21:9
Golden bowls 15:7; 16:1; 17:1; 21:9
Hills 17:9
Kings 17:10, 11
Last seven visions Chapters 20-21

For more information on the symbolic meaning of numbers in the Bible, please see the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture" in the Documents Section under the subtitle "Scripture Study" and a summary of the symbolism of numbers in the Bible in the appendix to this lesson.

Both the Gospel of St. John and Revelation are structured in terms of the Holy Days of the Jewish Liturgical Calendar and Heavenly Liturgy (sacred time and sacred space):

  1. The Gospel of John revolves around the Old Covenant liturgical calendar and the liturgical feasts in which three Passovers divide Jesus ministry.  The first Passover is in 2:14, the second in 6:4, and the third during Jesus last visit to Jerusalem in 12:1. Other feasts that are mentioned are the sacred feasts of Pentecost'not named but assumed to be this feast by most scholars (Jn 5:1), Tabernacles (Jn 7:2) and the national feast of Hanukkah/Dedication (Jn 10:22).
  2. The majority of St. John's visions are given to him in the heavenly Sanctuary during heavenly liturgy (beginning from the time John is taken up into heaven in Revelation 4:1).
  3. In his revelation St. John is involved in time in two directions: the time in which he was living and through his visions he is projected forward in time to the judgment on Jerusalem, the Second Advent of Christ, the Final Judgment, and the creation of the New Jerusalem at the end of time.

Most, though not all, Christian scholars agree that letters sent to the seven churches in Asia Minor in the first three chapters of Revelation describe the problems and triumphs of the historical faith communities that flourished when St. John was bishop of Ephesus, messages that have remained meaningful to the Church down through the centuries and meaningful to Christians in all generations.  Most scholars also agree that the last half of chapter 20 (verses 11-15) and all of chapters 21 and 22 apply to the end times: the Second Advent of Christ, Judgement Day, the consummation of all things, and the eternal life of the saints with God. But, the time frame of the middle part of the book in chapters 4:1-20:10 has been, and continues to be, in dispute.  In lesson 2 we will discuss the different schools of thought for interpreting the time-frame of the unfolding events recorded in the book of Revelation.

The Magisterium, composed of the Council of Bishops and the reigning Pope, has pronounced on both the authenticity and canonicity of the Apocalypse/Revelation in the councils of Hippo (393 AD), Carthage (397 and 419 AD), Florence (1441 AD) and Trent (1545-63). At Trent the Ecumenical Council, in the decree De Canonicis Scripturis (April 8, 1546), gave a formal definition of the "Canon of the Bible" and in accepting the list approved in the previous councils, which included the last New Testament book, Revelation.  However, even though the Church has dogmatically defined the book of Revelation as canonical, it has not pronounced as strongly on who wrote it (The Navarre Bible Commentary: Revelation page 15).

An Important Key to Interpreting the Visions of John

A significant key to unlocking the meaning of St. John's extraordinary visions may be found in the Old Testament books of the sixth century BC prophets Ezekiel and Daniel.  The books of Ezekiel and Daniel resemble the book of Revelation more than any of the other Old Testament books.  This Old Testament link will be one of the main themes of our study.

Parallels between the visions in the book of Revelation and the visions of the prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel: 

The Vision Ezekiel Revelation
1.  The throne vision Chapter 1 Chapter 4
2.  The book opened and eaten Chapters 2:9-3:3 Chapter 5:7-10; 10:8-9
3.  The four plagues Chapter 5 Chapter 6:1-8
4.  Those slain under the altar Chapter 6 Chapter 6:9-11
5.   The wrath of God Chapter 7 Chapter 6:12-17
6.   The seal on the Saint's foreheads Chapter 9 Chapter 7
7.   The coals from the altar Chapter 10 Chapter 8
8.   The 1/3 destruction Chapter 5:1-4 &12 Chapter 8:6-12
9.   No more delay Chapter 12 Chapter 10:1-7
10. The eating of the book Chapter 2 Chapter 10:8-11
11.  Prophecy against the Nations Chapters 25-32 Chapter 10:11
12.  The measuring of the Temple Chapters 40-43 Chapter 11:1-2
13.  Comparing Jerusalem to Sodom Chapter 16 Chapter 11:8
14.  The cup of wrath Chapter 23 Chapter 14
15.  The vine of the land Chapter 15 Chapter 14:18-20
16.  The great harlot Chapters 16, 23 Chapters 17-18
17.  The lament sung over the city Chapter 27 Chapter 18
18.  The scavenger's feast Chapter 39 Chapter 19
19.  The resurrection Chapter 37 Chapter 20:4-6
20.  The Battle of Gog and Magog Chapter 38-39 Chapter 20:7-9
21.  The New Jerusalem Chapters 40-48 Chapter 21
22.  The River of Life Chapter 47 Chapter 22
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Parallels between the visions in the book of Revelation and the visions of the prophet Daniel in the Old Testament book of Daniel:

The Vision Daniel Revelation
1.  Three and a half time period (a time, two times and half a time) Chapter 12:7 Chapter 11:9, 11
2.  The 10 horns Chapter 7:8 Chapters 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 8
3.  The Leopard, the Bear, and the Lion Chapter 7:4-6 Chapter 13:2
4.  The Beast mouthing boasting and blasphemies Chapter 7:8, 11 Chapter 13:5
5.  The war against the Saints Chapter 7:21 Chapter 13:7
6.  The worship of the Beast's statue Chapter 3:5-7, 15 Chapter 13:15
7.  The Son of Man coming on the Glory-Cloud Chapter 7:13 Chapter 1:7 & 14:14
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The book of Revelation only identifies the receiver of the visions as a man named "John," however, St. John Zebedee's identification with the book was virtually universal in the early centuries of the Church, as St. Justin Martyr wrote: John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied by a revelation that was made to him (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 81).  If St. John Zebedee is indeed the writer of the book of Revelation, then his life and experiences recorded in Scripture and in the writings of the Church Fathers are relevant to the study of this book of amazing visions.

St. John the Apostle in the New Testament

Scripture suggests St. John had a strong personality:

Scripture suggests that St. John was ambitious to serve Jesus in His Kingdom:

Jesus selected John for certain experiences not shared with all the other Apostles: 

Other interesting facts about John Zebedee from the writings of the Church Fathers:

The Roman Emperor Trajan ruled after the death of the Emperor Domitian from 98 AD until 117 AD.  If John was about 20 years old when Jesus was crucified in 30AD (he could have been younger), and if he did live until the year 100 AD or later, it is understandable why St. John says of himself at the end of his Gospel that there were those who thought he wouldn't die until Jesus came again.  In the last chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus revealed to St. Peter the kind of death he was to suffer (Jn 21:18-19): Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them - the one who had leant back close to his chest at the supper and had said to him, 'Lord, who is it that will betray you?'  Seeing him, Peter said to Jesus, 'What about him, Lord?'  Jesus answered, 'If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you?  You are to follow me.'  The rumor then went out among the brothers that this disciple would not die.  Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, 'He will not die,' but, 'If I want him to stay behind till I come.'  According to the history of the early Church St. John was the only Apostle who wasn't martyred, and he was the last of the original twelve Apostles to pass from this earthly exile to join his Savior and Lord in the eternal kingdom.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2001 & 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.


The Symbolic Significance of Numbers in the Bible

Number Symbolic Significance
One Unity, primacy, sovereignty, divine completeness: Christians saw this number as symbolic of God the Father.
Two Difference, division: on the second day God created light and darkness.  Christians saw this number as a symbol of the second person of the Trinity, God the Son (see Jesus' comment in Mt 10:34-36).
Three This number symbolizes that which is real, solid, substantial, complete and of importance or significance.  The number three always signifies some important event in Salvation History: Jesus' ministry lasted three years (as the ancients counted); He arose from the dead on the third day (as the ancients counted); the earth was separated from the waters on the 3rd day.  It is one of the four "perfect" numbers.  Christians saw this number as symbolic of the Trinity.
Four This number signifies God's creative works in association with the earth (four seasons, four winds, etc.).
Five This number is symbolic of God's grace and power.
Six This number is symbolic of man who was created on the 6th day; a symbol of man in rebellion against God (especially in multiples of six, i.e. "666").
Seven This is the second "perfect" number signifying perfection and fullness, especially spiritual perfection.  It is the number of the Holy Spirit and the number of covenant.
Eight The number symbolizing salvation, rebirth, resurrection and regeneration: i.e., eight people were saved in the Ark, an Israelite child was reborn into the covenant with YHWH on the 8th day of life, and Jesus was resurrected from the dead on the 8th day.
Nine This number signifies God's divine judgment.
Ten This is the third perfect number which signifies perfection of divine order (i.e., the Ten Commandments).
Eleven It is the number that symbolizes disorder, disharmony, imperfection and disintegration.
Twelve The fourth perfect number signifying divine government = the Covenant people/ the Church.  It is the number of Israel (descendants of the 12 physical sons of Jacob) as well as the number of the New Covenant Church (spiritual descendants of Jesus' Twelve Apostles).
Thirteen The number and its multiples signify ill omen, hostility, rebellion, apostasy, defection and corruption (i.e., see Gen 14:4; 17:25).
Fourteen It is the number signifying a double blessing of spiritual perfection.
Forty The number signifying trial and/ or consecration: i.e., the series of 40 days in the Flood narrative, Moses' 40 days on Mt. Sinai, and Jesus 40 days of testing in the wilderness.
Fifty The number symbolizing divine deliverance/ mercy: i.e., the celebration of the Jubilee Year every 50th year.
Seventy/ seventy-two The number which signified spiritual perfection times divine order (10 x 12) in God's plan of salvation: i.e., the 70 nations in Gen 10, the 70 men of Israel's family who migrated to Egypt, the 70 elders of Israel, and Jesus' 70/ 72 disciples.

See the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture"

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.