What does Revelation 1 3


Overview: Rough structure of the Apk

The title of this writing goes back to its first word (ἀποκάλυψις / apocalypsis - Epiphany). It has thus given its name to an entire literary genre and its supporters.

The author

In the beginning of a letter based on the Pauline prescript of the letter, the author mentions his name Johannes (1,4; cf. 1,1.9). He describes his work several times as prophecy (1: 3; 19.10; 22.7 and so on), so he sees himself as a Christian prophet (cf. 10.11). He received the auditions and visions that he wrote down in his work on the island of Patmos. There he was "for the sake of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (1: 9). This sentence is usually interpreted as an indication of the author's banishment.

Only the early church tradition (Justin, Irenäus) identified the author of the Apk with the Zebedaïden and then with the author of the Joh. The differences between the Corpus Johanneum and the Apk are so great, both linguistically and theologically, that identical authorship is not in Question comes. However, possible connection lines have recently been seriously discussed again.

The addressees

The addressees of the Apk are named in 1,4 "the seven congregations in the province of Asia", which are then enumerated in 1,11: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Apparently John worked in these congregations in the former Pauline mission area. He addresses each of them directly in the seven letters.

The communities are facing great hardships from within and without. The missives name false teachers who work in the congregations (2.2; 2.6.15; 2.14; 2.20ff.). It is difficult to classify them precisely because John partly works with Old Testament cover names (Balaam, Jezebel). From the perspective of the prophet, their work leads to the fact that the identity of the congregations is lost (cf. 2:14, 20 - seduction to eat meat sacrificed to idols and fornication; cf. the regulations in Acts 15:20).

On the part of society, the communities suffer above all from the distress caused by the increasing propagation of the imperial cult (see above all Chapter 13). In addition, there seems to have been local conflicts with the synagogue community (cf. 2.9; 3.9). Participation in the imperial cult could be understood as a sign of loyalty to Roman rule. In the Apk it is assumed that the refusal of Christians to take part in this cult has led to local persecution (cf. 2: 10, 13).

The famous correspondence between Pliny the Younger and the Emperor Trajan (111/12) shows that in the context of an imperial cult understood as a sign of loyalty, a climate of denunciation could quickly arise. The correspondence also shows that Christians had been in conflict with the imperial cult for 20 years.

Completion time

The situation of the communities addressed is also the most important clue for dating the Apk. The emperor Emperor Domitian (81-96) allowed himself to be called "dominus et deus noster" (our Lord and God) since 85. This was accompanied by a stronger propagation of the imperial cult. Towards the end of his reign he also used violence against opposition members. The sources know nothing of a general persecution of Christians under this emperor, but the situation of the Apk would fit in well with the climate of uncertainty that developed under him. It is therefore traditionally dated to the period 90-95. More recent studies, however, argue for a later date in the reign of the Emperor Trajan (98–117) or even Hadrian (117–138). Both were personally very present in the province of Asia and the inscription and literary sources attest to an accompanying upswing in the imperial cult (Traianeum in Pergamon, Olympieion in Ephesus), against the background of which Apk 13 can be read. The gematrical coding of the name of the beast in 13:18, however, does not contribute anything to the dating, since we do not know the code that John uses.

Literary character

John frames the writing of his Revelation with a letter introduction and a book end, which at the end (22:21) also takes on letter features. In doing so, the author probably deliberately leaned on the style of the Pauline letters. In terms of form, the Apk will therefore be classified as an apocalypse that has been stylized as a circular.

The apk consists of two parts (chap. 2f; 4,1-22,5) which are provided with a frame. Both main parts are structured with the help of the number seven.

In describing his visions, John makes extensive use of the biblical and extra-biblical apocalyptic tradition. He quotes relatively little. Rather, he creates a new text with the help of traditional elements. The descriptions of the visions in the 2nd main part are interrupted several times by hymn pieces, each of which occurs at an exposed point (cf. 5: 9-12.13, etc.). Presumably these pieces come from the church service of the congregations. In the apk they have the function of the choir in ancient tragedy. The event is commented on and the horror of the tribulation is contrasted with the glory of God. These pieces are therefore essential carriers of the message of the Apk, which, in the face of the current afflictions, wants to remind its addressees of the victory that Christ has already achieved (5.5).

Book introduction

Overview: Rev 1,1-20

The foreword (1,1-3) leads the revelation back to God, who gave it to Jesus Christ. He should show them to "his servants". As a mediator to the other servants, John appears, who testifies to what has been seen. The content of the revelation is "that which must happen soon". In the end, readers, listeners and keepers of prophecy will be blessed.

In the introduction to the letter (1,4-8), the greeting is greatly expanded. This is followed by a doxology and a court announcement. The speech of God in 1.8 confirms this announcement.

The description of the commissioning vision (1.9-20) forms the main part of the opening framework. On the Lord's Day John sees the risen One (cf. the self-introduction 1.17f.), Who gives him the command to write down "what you have seen, what is and what will happen afterwards" (1:19).

The seven letters

Overview: Rev 2,1-3,22

The letters have a strictly parallel structure, which the following overview should clarify.

Write command: 2.1a; 2.8a; 2.12a; 2.18a; 3.1a; 3.7a; 3.14a

Messenger formula (Christ as the actual sender, different predicates): 2.1b; 2.8b; 2.12b, 2.18b; 3.1b; 3.7b; 3.14b

Main part (introduction: I know ...); Description of the community situation with praise and blame; Call to repentance; Warning to preserve; Announcements of salvation and disaster:

Ephesus: 2.2-6

Smyrna: 2.9f.

Pergamon: 2.13-16

Thyatira: 2.19-25

Sardis: 3.1c-4

Philadelphia: 3.8-11

Laodicea: 3:15-20

Overcomer saying ("He who wins ..."): 2,7b; 2.11b; 2,17b; 2.26-28; 3.5; 3.12; 3.21

Wake-up call ("Let him who has ears hear what the Spirit says to the congregations."): 2,7a; 2.11a; 2.17a; 2.29; 3.6; 3.13; 3.22

The visions

Overview: Rev 4,1-22,5

The description of an ecstatic journey into heaven begins at 4.1. At the call of Christ, John is seized by the Spirit and sees the things described below.

The seer first describes the throne room of God. In his hand he looks at a book with seven seals. The Lamb alone is worthy to break the seals. With the broad description in 5.5-12, John emphatically emphasizes that the lamb is worthy of it solely because of its death (cf. above all 5.9f.). A doxology of all creatures that applies to God and the Lamb concludes the vision of the throne room (4.1-5.14).

The Lamb opens the seals one by one (6.1-8.1). The apocalyptic horsemen (war, riot, dearth, death) spring from the first four seals. The breaking of the fifth seal reveals the impatient call of the martyrs for the judgment of God. The sixth seal brings cosmic catastrophes over the earth so that people hide.

Chapter 7 interrupts the series of seals and acts as a retarding moment. John sees the sealing of the 144,000 servants of God. They will serve God and be grazed by the Lamb. 8.1 reports the breaking of the seventh seal. Then there is silence.

8.2-5 open the seven-trumpet vision as a kind of prelude (8.2-11.19). The blowing of the trumpets brings tremendous catastrophes to the earth, but each of them are deliberately limited. After the fourth trumpet, a huge eagle calls out a triple "Woe!" over the inhabitants of the earth from (8:13). These three calls of doom are then identified with the last three trumpets. The aim of the plagues is actually the repentance of people, but they continue to hold fast to idolatry (9.20f.).

After the sixth trumpet, a retarding intermediate piece (10: 1-11, 14) interrupts the chain of plagues. John looks at an angel with a small open book in his hand. After being prevented from writing down the Voice of Thunders, he eats the book. He should measure the temple and count the worshipers there. Then two witnesses appear with great power. Ultimately, however, she kills the beast from the abyss. Their resurrection and ascension trigger a catastrophe that is connected with the second woe. Now finally the survivors are converting. The seventh trumpet evokes hymnal praise in the face of this victory. The kingship over the world belongs to God and his Messiah. Now the temple will be opened in heaven (11: 15-19).

The following piece (12.1-14.20) is sometimes referred to as the Apocalypse within the Apocalypse. At the same time, it provides the hermeneutic key for understanding the visions. A woman dressed with cosmic attributes appears in the sky. The seer looks at her under birth. A dragon appears across from her and wants to devour the child. It is raptured to God and the woman flees. Michael and his heavenly hosts achieve the heavenly victory over the dragon (Satan), who is overthrown on earth. The dragon pursues women and their descendants on earth. This makes it clear that John understands women as a symbol of the Church.

An animal climbs the sea and receives the power of the dragon from it. The inhabitants of the earth pay him divine honors (13.4). It is given (by God) the freedom to persecute and kill the saints. A second animal appears that looks like the lamb but speaks the dragon's message. It works signs and wonders. The inhabitants of the earth are forced to worship a statue of the first beast. All must bear the seal of the beast. The self-contained description is given in 13.9f. interrupted by a short section that interprets the reign of the beast as a time of probation for the Christians (cf. the corresponding statements in the letters).

In contrast, John looks at the Lamb and the 144,000 on Zion. You are the saved. Three angels announce the judgment (invitation to worship God, Babylon has fallen, the worshipers of the beast have to drink God's cup of anger). The dish is described as a terrible harvest (sickle, wine press) (14.1-20).

Enter seven angels with seven bowls containing the last plagues (15.1-16.21). After praising God "through the victors over the beast", the seven angels pour out the seven bowls over the earth. The plagues are commented on by an angelic word after the third (vengeance for the blood of the saints and prophets) and an intermediate vision after the sixth (judgment like thief in the night, Armageddon) bowl. The seventh bowl leads over to the judgment of Babylon 17: 1-19, 10.

One of the angels shows John the whore of Babylon, sitting on an animal in many waters. The angel indicates the vision of the city of Rome and the Roman Empire. Chapter 18 announces the judgment of Babylon. Court accusation (18.1-3), court speech (18.4-8), complaint about the destroyed city (18.9-19), call to joy in heaven and saints (18.20) and act of drawing (18.21- 24) follow one another. 19: 1-10 tell of the rejoicing in heaven over the fall of Babylon. The verses also prepare the description of the heavenly Jerusalem (keyword: "Wedding of the Lamb"; note 19,9).

Then the actual final events begin (19.11-20.15). The beast and his prophet and their hosts are beaten and killed by the heavenly host of the "King of kings" (19:16). The dragon is shackled and cast into the abyss for a thousand years. During this time Christ and the Christians who are faithful to the death reign. After the re-release of Satan, he ignites the final battle. He is beaten. Then comes the judgment of the dead according to their works.

John sees a new heaven and a new earth (21: 1-22: 5). The new Jerusalem, in which God rules, comes down from heaven. It is the bride of the Lamb and is described as the shining counterpart of Babylon. "But nothing unclean will come in, no one who commits abominations and lies. Only those who are entered in the Lamb's book of life will be admitted." (21.27)

The closing date

The closing of the book (22.6-21) emphasizes above all the reliability and closeness of what is recorded in the "book with its prophetic words" (22.10). At the same time, Johannes uses it as a last reminder to his addressees. Anyone who shakes the integrity of the book is threatened (22.18f.), Because he would falsify the will of God (cf. 22.6).

Electronic Bible Studies

The texts on this page are taken from:

New Testament

Bull, Klaus-Michael: Bible study of the New Testament. The Canonical Scriptures and the Apostolic Fathers. Overviews - topic chapters - glossary, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 8th edition. 2018.