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CPCC Bible Study: Revelation, through the lens of “the 5 W's”.

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Posted on CCPC's website 2022

The study Index page.

The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of:
The Revelation of John, also called The Apocalypse.

“Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, & not in the multiplicity & confusion of things. As the world, which to the naked eye exhibits the greatest variety of objects, appears very simple in its internal constitution when surveyed by a philosophic understanding, & so much the simpler by how much the better it is understood, so it is in these visions. It is the perfection of God's works that they are all done with the greatest simplicity. He is the God of order & not of confusion. And therefore as they that would understand the frame of the world must endeavour to reduce their knowledge to all possible simplicity, so it must be in seeking to understand these visions.”
- Isaac Newton (1643 - 1727) , Unpublished Treatise on Revelation - 1680s, link below
WHO: There are two aspects to the first one: Who wrote it, and Who is it about.
     Author: John the Apostle, as reported in the book and through the testimony of those who knew him, including Justin Martyr who referenced it in his discussion with Trypho who is called “a Jew”:
“And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place.”
CHAP. LXXXI.- “He Endeavours To Prove This Opinion From Isaiah And The Apocalypse.” (link below)
     About Whom: Christ Jesus, The Father, and other Heavenly (and lower) Beings.
     The Cast of Secondary Characters in the book is almost innumerable. Including the 144,000 from Israel, 24 Elders, various angels, a whole slew of bad guys including The Dragon, and so on.

WHAT: The book is a general letter written in Greek in the first person by John both to “the Seven Churches” and the larger body of believers in the world.
     The majority of the text is written as a journal, almost as a personal diary of his observations of a series of events, and his dialogues with those involved, and in a couple of cases, instructions that he was Not To Record what was said, as when the “Thunders” say something. It is presented in three parts revolving around the major movements in the story, the Introduction and the Seven Letters, then the section with the Seven Seals and their consequences, finally the defeat of Evil.

WHEN: Again there are two parts to this question.
     The First is “when was it written”. John is known to have been on Patmos somewhere near the end of the First Century, during the reign of the Emperor Domitian. He is also known to have left the island, probably not long before his Death, as was mentioned by Polycarp and Irenaeus. This places the vision and its recording from about 81 to 96 AD.
     The Second, “when do these things happen”, is a more interesting question. And the answer is: Some of them have already happened, and others are waiting in the wings for their appointed time.
     Although there are number of measurements of time in the book, there are none to set your watch, or calendar to. The scale of time, weeks and years, are completely on God's schedule and not ours. For example, we needn't look any further than the first three verses of the book where it says “...what must soon take place.” and “...because the time is near.” As we just said, the book was written just before 100 AD.
     Arguments have been put forth that the predominance of the events in the book have already happened and deal with the various persecutions of Jews and Christians under Rome, and different regimes over the years. Others state that everything is yet to occur and will play out as scripted by John. Another school of thought is that the entire work is figurative and everything means something else and the time scale used is symbolic for time from the current age to eternity. Most likely, all of these are in play at once, and all have some basis to be considered. Which is where this study stands on the matter.

WHERE: Again with the two parts.
     John was known to have been in exile on Patmos, a small island group off the southwestern coast of today's Turkey. Somewhat due south of the larger island of Ikaria, and about a hundred miles southwest of the Roman port of Ephesus, today's city of Izmir.
     The events in the book take place in Heaven as the abode of GOD, and on Earth, in space above the Earth, and in between the three. John writes as though he were physically present when these things take place, and the characters who act as his guide, and in some cases are involved in the action, interact with him as if he were.

WHY: The book itself states it in several places, it is to show those who believe what will come to pass. That message is in the first chapter, occupies a great deal of the last chapter as below which is 22: 6 (NIV), and is stated in between as well.
“The angel said to me, 'These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets,sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.'”

HOW: This comes down to the presentation of the book itself and its reception in the wider world.
     The language is unique to the entire Bible. Not even Daniel, where many of the images and themes can be found, turns a phrase like John does in his book. The tone and theme are better conveyed by the traditional name for the book, “the Apocalypse”. And it is not only Christians who appreciate the language of the book:

“'And I will give him the morning star.' That is from Revelation-once again. I have stolen more quotes and thoughts and purely elegant little starbursts of writing from the Book of Revelation than anything else in the English language-and it is not because I am a biblical scholar, or because of any religious faith, but because I love the wild power of the language and purity of the madness that governs it and makes it music.”
- Hunter S. Thompson (1937 - 2005)
     The book is unique in the New Testament, it is not directly evangelistic or given to matters in a local church. Other than the messages to the Seven Churches, the book's scope is Cosmic, and, as we said, Apocalyptic.
     To the people of Earth who are on the receiving end of everything from the Bowls of Wrath on the events are overwhelmingly catastrophic. The message is clear, without a working and living Faith In God, you're doomed. Period.
     Which is also why this book in particular has had issues over the years. Some Orthodox Churches did not accept the book as Canon until rather late in their history, and even then, some did so with something of an asterisk after the title. Such as was done by Martin Luther in his version of the Bible where in his preface to the book he said: “My spirit cannot fit itself into this book.”

Selected Sources for this chapter:
Isaac Newton, Unpublished Treatise on Revelation -1680s
Public Domain, “Source: Yahuda Ms., National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel”

“Dialogue of Justin Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew”
Public domain. Formatting by Copyright free.

Generation of Swine Introduction, Hunter S. Thompson, 1988

Martin Luther: Preface To The Revelation Of Saint John - 1534

Sources used throughout entire study:
Bible Hub Interlinear pages:

the Geneva Bible downloadable

The study Index page.

the 1611 KJV

NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

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