‘And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.’
John, the author of this book, was familiar to all his readers; tradition speaks of him living to a great age at Ephesus and therefore being especially well-known to the churches of that area. The book is commonly dated around AD 95, during a time of persecution under the Roman Emperor, Domitian.
What is this last book of the Bible? It is ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ’: not so much the revelation of John, although it was delivered to the church through this apostle, but the revelation of Christ himself to his church. The word ‘revelation’ comes from the Latin word meaning unveiling. The Greek word is very similar: the uncovering, the unveiling, the disclosing of something not previously clearly known.
There are at least three great secrets revealed in the New Testament. There is the mystery of the gospel – what is the gospel of Christ? Secondly, there is the mystery of the gathering in of the Gentiles. However these two great secrets of the gospel had already been unveiled before Revelation in a tremendous burst of New Testament light.
But there is a third secret, and this is the subject of the Book of Revelation. It is the plan of God for the church in the last age of the world. What is happening in that age? Is the church going to conquer the world spiritually, or totally? Says the Book of Revelation, No, it isn’t. What is going to happen? What will be the circumstances under which the gospel is preached? Well, says the Book of Revelation, it will be one of constant tribulation. There will be a tremendous spiritual warfare between the world and the church. It will always be, until the very end, and it will end with the great triumph of Christ and the triumph of the gospel and the day of judgement.
The last age includes the entire period that stretches between the first coming of Christ and his return at the end of the world, when the present age is wound up and the last great eternal age brought in. Revelation shows what God will allow, and what he will determine and decree. It shows how he will inspire, strengthen, and equip his people, his church, and what he will do in the world through them. It explains how he will defend them and help them, and how they will be permitted to suffer great hostility and persecution, but in the end they will triumph with the coming of Christ and the establishing of eternal things.
As a result of this unveiling, Christians living in the last stage of the earth will know why things are as they are. Through seven ‘scans’ of time, the Book of Revelation shows in general terms what is the pattern of events in this last age of earth’s history.