·         The author is named as John four times (1:1,4,9; 22:8)

·         Scholars are divided as to whether this is the Apostle John or another John.  I will present this lesson from the view that the Apostle John wrote it.


Place and Time of Writing

·         John was exiled to the small, desolate island of Patmos.  This island of volcanic rock was one of several places to which the Romans banished criminals and political traitors.

·         You can see Patmos here.  It is above the larger island of Crete:

·         The Roman Emperor Domitian (81-96) led the first empire-wide persecution of Christians (and others who did not worship him).

o    Nero also led a persecution of Christians in 64, but that was centered around Rome only.

·         Time:  95.  Domitian did not begin persecuting Christians until the end of his reign, so I will say 95.


Literary Character

·         Revelation is apocalyptic, meaning that it tells about future events.



·         Seven churches in present-day Turkey

·         For a map, go here



·         Written to encourage the Christians and to tell of the events of the end times.


Opening Revelation Up


I will present Revelation in a manner different than I have presented other books because of the style of writing of Revelation.  Also, Revelation is filled with metaphors, and I will not attempt to explain the vast majority of the metaphors.  The reason I don’t explain them is because many Christians have a wide variety of interpretations of most of the metaphors, and all I could do is give you my opinion.  Therefore, since this is an academic class on the New Testament, I will describe the metaphors that most Christians agree on and will only mention the metaphors that are widely debated. 


I will include the outline first


·         1:  Introduction

·         2-3:  Letters to the Seven Churches

·         4-5:  Vision of Heaven and Jesus Christ

·         6-22:  Revelation of future events


Chapter 1
This chapter of 20 verses is an introduction to the book.  You can think of it like a prologue to a book in that it introduces the author, gives background of the book, and tells about the purpose of the book.

·         1:4, 5:  “John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia.  Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and form the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

This letter is specifically addressed to the Christians in seven cities in present-day Turkey.  One of the cities is Ephesus, where John most likely lived before he was arrested and placed on the island of Patmos, and where he probably returned after being released from Patmos upon the death of Domitian. 

    While on the island of Patmos, John has a vision of Jesus.

·         1:12-16:  “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me.  And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone ‘like a son of man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a gold sash around his chest.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.  His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” 

This person was Jesus, and Jesus told John to write down seven short letters to the Christians in seven cities.


Chapters 2-3

These two chapters contain the seven short letters.  We are used to discussing letters that are much longer that were written to Christians in different cities, but here the letters are each one paragraph.  They do have a common outline:

I will not discuss the contents here, but will make available my notes from when I taught a traditional class on the letters of John, and where I spent a month discussing Revelation.  This is optional reading:  go here


Chapters 4-5

In these two chapters John either sees a vision of heaven or is taken in the spirit to heaven.

·         4:1, 2:  “After this (the seven letters) I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.  And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’  At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.”

John then describes the throne, twenty-four elders and four living creatures that surround the throne.  John next describes a distressing scene, which ends in joy.

·         5:1-7:  “Then I saw I in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.  And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’  But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.  I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.  Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep!  See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.  He is able to open the scroll ad its seven seals.’  Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.  He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.  He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.”

Remember I mentioned that Revelation uses lots of metaphors, and this is a good example.  Let me explain one:  he mentions a “Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.”  This person is Jesus, but why is Jesus called a lamb?  This connects back to the Old Testament, and back to the time when the Egyptians held the Jews as slaves.  God told Moses to have the Jews kill a lamb as a sacrifice and to paint its blood on their doorposts.  Then, when the angel of death went through Egypt killing the firstborn son of every family, the angel would pass by a house with the blood.  So the lamb sacrificed its life so that the firstborn son could live.  Since Jesus died on the cross for the salvation of everyone, he is understood to represent the sacrifice of those lambs, and so is referred here as a lamb.


Chapters 6-22

The last part of Revelation discusses future events.  I will not discuss these because, like the metaphors of Revelation, many different interpretations of these events exist among Christians.  I will include a detailed outline, which you can find here.  This is optional and you will not be tested on it:  go here

Also, I do know that many people are very interested in understanding how Revelation can be interpreted, and so will provide the notes from a Revelation class I have taught at a university. Again, this is optional reading and I will not test you on it:  go here


Timeline      Additions are boldfaced        All dates are approximate



Rome Empire conquered Israel without fighting


Julius Caesar assassinated by Brutus, Cassius, and others.  Mark Antony tries to seize power, and he and Octavian (Caesar’s nephew) fight for power.


The Roman Empire made Herod the Great king of Israel


Antony married Cleopatra in Egypt


Octavian’s forces defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s forces; they committed suicide the next year.


Octavian is given name of Augustus, becomes Augustus Caesar.  This is the beginning of Pax Romana

4 BC

Jesus born

4 BC

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt because Herod the Great wanted to kill Jesus

4 BC

Herod the Great died

4 BC

After Herod the Great died, the kingdom of the Jews was divided and given to Herod’s three sons:

The northern part, north of Nazareth, went to Philip.

The middle part called Galilee, north of Jerusalem but where Nazareth was located, went to Herod Antipas.  (He is referred to as “Herod” in the Gospels and so this can be confusing.)

The southern part called Judea, where Jerusalem and Bethlehem was located, went to Herod Archelaus. 


All years after this point are AD



Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Nazareth instead of moving to Bethlehem


Archelaus was removed from power because he was so brutal

6 and after

The Romans did not choose another of Herod’s descendants to control Judea (southern Israel) but instead appointed Roman governors


Jesus lost in Jerusalem at age 12; Joseph and Mary found him in the Temple; possible Bar Mitzvah


Jesus probably worked as a carpenter


The Roman governor in charge of southern Israel was Pilate


Jesus baptized by John the Baptist


Jesus traveled in Israel and preached, taught, and performed miracles


1.  Jesus was crucified under the Roman governor Pilate, raises from the dead three days later and ascends out of sight about a month-and-a-half later

2.  The Apostles return to Jerusalem and pick a replacement for Judas

3.  Day of Pentecost

4.  Over 3000 people become Christian

5.  Christianity spreads outside of Israel


Peter was the leader of the Christian movement


Paul became a Christian


Paul went on his First Missionary Trip


James written around this year


Council of Jerusalem

  • Paul, Peter, the Apostle John and James the half-brother of Jesus were present along with many others


We do not know what John did during this time period


Paul went on his Second Missionary Trip

  • Paul wrote Galatians, I Thessalonians, and II Thessalonians


Nero was Roman emperor


Paul went on his Third Missionary Trip

  • Paul wrote Romans, and I & II Corinthians


Paul arrested in Jerusalem, taken to Rome, and lived under house arrest

  • Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon


James, the author of the book of James, was stoned


Paul released from prison and travelled; he may have gone to Spain

  • Paul wrote I Timothy and Titus


Fire in Rome.  The emperor Nero blamed, persecuted, and killed many Christians.  This was the first Roman persecution of Christians. 

  • I Peter written around this year


1.  Paul back in Rome

2.  Paul wrote II Timothy

3.  Peter wrote II Peter

4.  Peter and Paul martyred around this year in Rome

  • Peter crucified upside down

  • Paul beheaded


Some of the Jews got tired of the Roman rule and killed many Roman soldiers.  They thus took back the land of Israel for the Jews.


The Romans counter-attacked.  The Romans lost one battle, but won the war.


  • Mark written around this year

  • Hebrews written around this year


The Romans captured Jerusalem and burned the Temple. 


Matthew and Luke written around this year


Domitian is Roman emperor


John and Acts written around this year

  • Jude written sometime during this decade


1.  Persecution of Christians

2.  John was placed on the island of Patmos as a prisoner of Domitian

3.  Revelation probably written in this year


1.  Domitian died

2.  John was probably released from Patmos; he probably traveled to Ephesus where he stayed for the rest of his life


I John, II John, and III John written around this year


John died


First listing of the 27 books in a letter written by an Egyptian bishop


Two councils “closed” the NT canon to those 27 books


NT divided into chapters


NT divided into verses



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