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04 Revelation Historical Background Of Revelation

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Class 4 of 16 on the Book of Revelation, scheduled to be taught by Dale Wells at Palm Springs Church of Christ on January 28, 2009.

Class 4 of 16 on the Book of Revelation, scheduled to be taught by Dale Wells at Palm Springs Church of Christ on January 28, 2009.

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  • 1. Lesson 4 The Alpha and the Omega (4) Historical Background of Revelation Amen! Hallelujah! – A Study of the Book of Revelation By Dale Wells Text: Rev 1.1-8; Rev 22.8-12
  • 2. The historical setting of the book
    • Julio-Claudian Dynasty
      • Augustus (27 BC-14 AD)
      • Tiberius (14-37 AD)
      • Caligula (37-41 AD)
      • Claudius (41-54 AD)
      • Nero (54-68 AD)
    • Civil War
      • Galba (68-69 AD)
      • Otho (69 AD)
      • Vitellius (69 AD)
    • Flavian Dynasty
      • Vespasian (69-79 AD)
      • Titus (79-81 AD)
      • Domitian (81-96 AD)
  • 3. Julio-Claudian Dynasty
  • 4. Imperator Caesar Augustus
    • Emperor 27 BC - 14 AD
    • Founder of the Roman Empire & nephew of Julius Caesar.
      • On Caesar's death (44 BC), he used Caesar's money and name (both acquired by will) to raise an army and extort a consulship from the Senate.
      • He had the Senate declare Julius a God, thus making himself the “son of god.”
    • Octvaius took the western Roman world, leaving Antony the eastern. Octavius defeated Antony & Cleopatra in 31 BC and emerged as the sole ruler of the Roman world.
  • 5. The significance of the throne name Augustus
    • His throne name, Augustus (“exalted”), had religious overtones.
    • Rome gave him the title Pater Patriae (‘Father of his Country’) in 2 BC, and on his death made him a god (Divus Augustus).
    • Augustus accepted deification in the Roman provinces, thus laying the foundation for the concilia , or emperor cult.
    • Jesus was born during his reign.
      • Luk 2:1-5 WEB Now it happened in those days, that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. … (4) Joseph … went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David; (5) to enroll himself with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him as wife, being pregnant.
  • 6. Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus
    • Emperor 14 – 37 AD
    • Stepson of Augustus.
      • His reign was a political disaster and a reign of terror by the praetorian prefect Sejanus.
      • The people despised him. He moved to the island of Capri in 26 & never returned to Rome.
    • Jesus’ ministry and death occurred during his reign.
      • Luk 3:1-2 WEB Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar … (2) in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.
  • 7. Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus ( Caligula )
    • Emperor 37 – 41 AD
    • Youngest son of Germanicus and Agrippina.
      • He was brought up in an army camp and nicknamed Caligula from his little boots (caligae).
      • He was extravagant, autocratic, vicious, and mentally unstable.
      • He wreaked havoc with the state finances and terrorized those around him, until he was assassinated.
    • He demanded worship and ordered that his statue be placed in the Jerusalem temple, but he died before the order was carried out.
  • 8. Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
    • Emperor 41 - 54 AD
    • Nephew of Tiberius.
      • He was kept secluded because of physical disabilities.
      • He became emperor after Caligula's murder.
      • He was progressive, engaging in public works and reform.
      • Poisoned by his fourth wife, Agrippina.
    • He expelled Jews from Rome.
      • Act 18:1-3 WEB … (2) He found a certain Jew named Aquila … who had recently come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome …
  • 9. Imperator Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
    • Emperor 54 - 68 AD
    • Agrippina, urged Claudius to adopt Nero, then poisoned him, making Nero emperor.
      • First years were good, thanks to his mother, Seneca, and the Praetorian Prefect Burrus.
      • After his mother's murder (59), corruption set in.
      • He was blamed for the Fire of Rome (64) and tried to blame Christians.
      • Rome endured four more years of tyranny before he was toppled by the army, and forced to commit suicide.
    • Peter and Paul were martyred during Nero’s reign.
  • 10. Civil War
    • 69 AD – The Year of Four Kings
      • On January 1, 69 AD, Galba was on the throne
      • On December 31, 69 AD, Vespasian was on the throne.
      • Between Galba and Vespasian, two emperors occupied the throne.
        • Otho (3 months)
        • Vitellius (8 months)
  • 11. Servius Galba Imperator Caesar Augustus
    • Emperor June 9, 68 – January 15, 69 AD
    • He became consul in 33, and administered Aquitania, Germany, Africa, and Hispania Tarraconensis with competence and integrity. In 68 the Gallic legions rose against Nero, and in June proclaimed Galba emperor. But he soon made himself unpopular by favoritism, ill-timed severity, and avarice, and was assassinated by the praetorians in Rome.
  • 12. Imperator Marcus Otho Caesar Augustus
    • Emperor January 15 – April 17, 69 AD
    • Nero took Otho's wife for his mistress, and later married her. He was sent to govern Lusitania (58-68), and joined Galba in his revolt against Nero (68). When he was not proclaimed Galba's successor, he rose against the new emperor, who was slain. Otho was recognized as emperor everywhere except in Germany. Aulus Vitellius marched on Italy, defeated Otho's forces, and Otho committed suicide.
  • 13. Imperator Aulus Vitellius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
    • Emperor April 19 – December 20, 69 AD
    • Galba appointed him to command the legions on the Lower Rhine (68). He was proclaimed emperor at the beginning of 69. His army ended Otho's reign by the victory of Bedriacum. He gave himself up to pleasure and debauchery. Many of his soldiers deserted when Vespasian was proclaimed emperor in Alexandria. Vitellius was dragged through the streets of Rome, and murdered.
  • 14. Flavian Dynasty
  • 15. Imperator Caesar Vespasianus Augustus
    • Emperor 69 – 79 AD
    • Declared emperor by the troops during the Jewish Revolt.
      • He ended civil wars, put Rome on a good financial footing, and restored military discipline.
      • He built the Colosseum.
    • His last words: “Puto deus fio” (“I think I'm becoming a god”). After death, he was deified.
    • Revelation was likely written during his reign.
      • Rev 17:9-11 WEB ... The seven heads … (10) … are seven kings. Five have fallen, the one is , the other has not yet come … (11) The beast … is … an eighth…
  • 16. Imperator Titus Caesar Vespasianus Augustus
    • Emperor 79 - 81 AD
    • Elder son of Vespasian. He was popular for his generosity, charm, and military prowess.
    • He was exceptionally good-looking, cultivated, refined and friendly. Suetonius called him “the darling of the human race”.
    • He engineered the destruction of Jerusalem (70) and suppressed the Jewish Revolt.
    • He completed the construction of the Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum.
    • His sudden death at age 41 was likely hastened by Domitian.
  • 17. Imperator Caesar Domitianus Augustus Germanicus
    • Emperor 81 – 96 AD
    • Younger son of Vespasian, and last of the Flavians.
    • He was paranoid about opposition after the revolt of Saturninus, the Governor of Upper Germany (89).
    • He unleashed a reign of terror in Rome that lasted until his assassination.
    • He demanded to be called Lord and God.
    • He initiated an extremely severe persecution of Christians.
    • Revelation was written to prepare Christians for his persecution.
  • 18. The essential message of the book
    • Revelation is a message to seven churches in First Century Asia Minor.
      • Rev 1:4-5a WEB John, to the seven assemblies that are in Asia …
    • These seven churches are typical of the church as a whole. We know that, because each letter ends with a word to all the churches.
      • He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22 WEB
  • 19. The author identifies himself as John four times.
    • Rev 1:1 WEB This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ … which he ... made known by his angel to his servant, John,
    • Rev 1:4 WEB John, to the seven assemblies that are in Asia …
    • Rev 1:9 WEB I John, your brother and partner with you in oppression, Kingdom, and perseverance in Christ Jesus, was on the isle that is called Patmos because of God's Word and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
    • Rev 22:8 WEB … I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things …
  • 20. Who was this John?
    • Justin Martyr (2 nd century) held it was the apostle John.
    • We know the author was:
      • well versed in Scripture,
      • well known to the seven churches of Asia Minor,
      • convinced that the church would triumph over its enemies.
    • Dionysius (3 rd century), suggested it was John the Presbyter, who appears elsewhere in ancient writings.
    • I believe it was the apostle.
  • 21. Revelation was written as Christians were facing impending persecution.
    • Most hold it was during the reigns of Nero (54-68) or Domitian (81-96).
    • I believe it was during Vespasian's reign (69-79).
      • Rev 17:10-11 WEB They are seven kings. Five have fallen, the one is , the other has not yet come. When he comes, he must continue a little while. The beast that was, and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven...
      • The 5: Julio-Claudians: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero
      • The 3: Flavians: Vespasian, Titus, Domitian
  • 22. Roman authorities were beginning to enforce emperor worship.
    • Christians were facing increasing hostility.
    • Warning to Smyrna:
      • Rev 2:10 WEB ... the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days. Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life.
    • Promise to Philadelphia:
      • Rev 3:10 WEB … I … will keep you from the hour of testing which is to come on the whole world ...
  • 23. Christians were already suffering for their faith.
    • In Pergamum, Antipas had given his life.
      • Rev 2:13 WEB … You hold firmly to my name, and didn't deny my faith in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
    • Others had been martyred.
      • Rev 6:9 WEB … I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed for the Word of God, and for the testimony of the Lamb which they had.
  • 24. John had been exiled to a penal colony on Patmos.
    • Rev 1:9 WEB I John, your brother and partner with you in oppression, Kingdom, and perseverance in Christ Jesus, was on the isle that is called Patmos because of God's Word and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
  • 25. Some Christians were beginning to dabble in sin.
    • Some in Pergamum were advocating compromise.
      • Rev 2:14-15 WEB But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to throw a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans likewise.
    • Thyatirans were tolerating immorality and idolatry.
      • Rev 2:20 WEB But I have this against you, that you tolerate your woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. She teaches and seduces my servants to commit sexual immorality, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
  • 26. John's purpose in writing is clear.
    • He writes to encourage the faithful to resist the demands of emperor worship.
    • He tells his readers that the final showdown between God and Satan is imminent.
    • Satan will increase his persecution of believers, but they must be faithful, even if it means death.
    • They are sealed against any spiritual harm and they will be vindicated when God judges his enemies and rewards his people.
  • 27. The message is “grace” and “peace”.
    • “ Grace” refers to blessings we don’t deserve.
    • “ Peace” refers to harmony with God in the middle of turmoil.
    • There is a good reason why biblical writers like Paul and John made use of the combined greeting: “Grace and peace”.
      • In the 1 st Century, the greeting of the Greeks was the Greek charis , meaning “grace”; the greeting of the Jews was the Hebrew shalom , meaning “peace”.
      • By using both greetings, the writers emphasized the inherent unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ!
  • 28. Who is the author of grace and peace?
    • The eternal God, “who is … was and … is to come”.
    • This is the way God identified himself to Moses.
      • Exo 3:14 WEB God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM,” and he said, “You shall tell the children of Israel this: “I AM has sent me to you.”
    • It is also one way God identified himself to Israel.
      • Isa 41:4 WEB Who has worked and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I, Yahweh, the first, and with the last, I am he.
    • The meaning of “Yahweh” is “the existing one”.
      • It doesn't matter whether you are talking about the past, or the present, or the future, God always IS!
  • 29. Grace and peace are also gifts from the Holy Spirit.
    • “ [T]he seven Spirits who are before his throne” refers to the Holy Spirit.
    • The NIV footnote suggests an alternate reading that may actually give us a better concept of what John is getting at: “the sevenfold Spirit”.
    • Remember the use of numbers in the Book of Revelation? To say that the Spirit is “the sevenfold Spirit” is to say that the Holy Spirit is engaged in seeing that the whole work of God is accomplished. It is God's Spirit at work!
  • 30. Last, but not least, grace and peace are the gift of Jesus Christ, himself.
  • 31. Jesus is described three ways.
    • He is the “faithful (reliable) witness”.
      • Rev 3:14 WEB “The … Faithful and True Witness … says...
      • Rev 19:11 WEB I saw … a white horse, and he who sat on it is called Faithful and True …
    • He is the “firstborn of the dead”.
      • This is reminiscent of the Davidic king.
        • Psa 89:27 WEB I will … appoint him my firstborn
      • Paul describes Jesus this way:
        • Col 1:18 WEB He is … the firstborn from the dead
    • He is “ruler of the kings of the earth”.
      • The descriptions of the king and of the Messiah.
        • Psa 89:27 WEB I will … appoint him ... highest of the kings of the earth .
      • Revelation turns on the question: Who rules?
        • The emperor thought he ruled the world. He was mistaken!
        • Revelation has as its theme: God Rules!
  • 32. Doxology
    • At this point in the text, John erupts in spontaneous praise. He extols the wonderful works that Jesus has done on our behalf!
      • Rev 1:5b-6 WEB To him who loves us, and washed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
  • 33. He begins with the words, “To him who loves us”.
    • This is a present, active participle. (The KJV incorrectly renders it as a past tense, “loved”.)
    • Often, in Greek, when a word is in the present tense and active voice, it conveys both (1) present action, and (2) ongoing action.
    • Thus, the meaning is not just that Jesus loves us now, but that he never stops loving us! His love continues – past, present, and future. There is no end to Jesus' love for us!
  • 34. John says that Jesus “washed us from our sins by his blood”.
    • That may be an incorrect translation.
      • Most modern Greek editions have lusanti , (“loosed”), not lousanti (“washed”). They sound the same, but they are spelled slightly differently.
      • Regardless of whether we read “loosed” or “washed”, the meaning is not radically different for the Christian.
    • It is the form of the word that is telling.
      • It is an aorist participle – referring to a completed past action.
      • Jesus has “loosed” or “washed” us from our sins, so that we are no longer bound to, or sullied by them.
  • 35. John continues to say that Jesus has made us into something special.
    • Rev 1:6 WEB... [H]e made us … a kingdom, priests to his God …
    • This was God's plan for Israel:
      • Exo 19:6 WEB “you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation”
      • Isa 61:6 WEB But you shall be named the priests of Yahweh; men shall call you the ministers of our God…
    • The church, “God's Israel” (Gal 6:16), is “a kingdom” (not “kings”, as in KJV); Christians are “priests”.
      • 1Pe 2:9 WEB But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:
  • 36. The coming of the Lord
    • Rev 1:7 WEB Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. Even so, Amen.
    • The Bible says a lot about the “coming” of the Lord.
    • Most people do not understand the “coming” of the Lord. Most think of the “Second Coming”.
    • Much of the time, when the Bible talks about the Lord “coming”, it is not talking about the "second coming."
    • The Bible speaks of several times when the Lord has “come”.
  • 37. Prophets used it to describe God's judgment on a nation, or a people.
    • Isa 13:9-11 WEB … the day of Yahweh comes … For the stars of the sky and the constellations of it shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in its going forth, and the moon shall not cause its light to shine. I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity: and I will cause the arrogance of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
    • This is not the end of the world, but the end of Babylon's world:
      • Isa 13:1 WEB The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah … did see.
  • 38. In other passages, the same motif occurs.
    • Isa 19:1 WEB The burden of Egypt. Behold, Yahweh rides on a swift cloud, and comes to Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall tremble at his presence; and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.
      • According to Isaiah, God is riding on a cloud and wreaking all sorts of havoc in the world.
      • But the text clearly says that this is God's judgment on Egypt.
    • Isa 30:30-31 WEB Yahweh will cause his glorious voice to be heard, and will show the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and the flame of a devouring fire, with a blast, and tempest, and hailstones. For through the voice of Yahweh shall the Assyrian be dismayed; with his rod will he strike him.
      • In this text, God describes a coming judgment on Assyria in terms reminiscent of the Book of Revelation.
  • 39. Isaiah offers another example to show that this is a common theme.
    • Isa 63:1-7 Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this who is glorious in his clothing, marching in the greatness of his strength? I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Why are you red in your clothing, and your garments like him who treads in the wine vat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the peoples there was no man with me: yes, I trod them in my anger, and trampled them in my wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on my garments, and I have stained all my clothing. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore my own arm brought salvation to me; and my wrath, it upheld me. I trod down the peoples in my anger, and made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth. …
  • 40. Isaiah's description sounds much like words we will read in Revelation:
    • Rev 14:19-20 WEB The angel thrust his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vintage of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. The winepress was trodden outside of the city, and blood came out from the winepress, even to the bridles of the horses, as far as one thousand six hundred stadia.
    • But the context of Isaiah shows that the prophet is describing God's judgment on Israel.
  • 41. When you read those texts a common theme emerges.
    • The Coming, or Day of the Lord, refers to the day when the Lord judges a nation and punishes it for its sins.
    • John says the Lord is coming. We must view that from a First Century perspective.
      • God had judged Babylon, Egypt, Assyria and Israel with previous comings.
      • John assures 1 st Century Christians that he is going to judge Rome, as well. As we shall see, that is the empire against whom the Lord's coming is directed in the Book of Revelation.
  • 42. And the ungodly will be sorry about the way they treated Jesus.
    • Rev 1:7 “[E]very eye will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him.”
    • That is reminiscent of the prophet Zechariah.
      • Zec 12:10-14 WEB I will pour on the house of David, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they will look to me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him , …
    • The “coming” of the Lord is the day of reckoning and the day of reward!
    • Whether the coming of the Lord is good news or bad news depends entirely on your relationship to him when he comes!
  • 43. Trust God!
    • Rev 1:8 WEB “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
    • Revelation's message is simple: “Trust God”.
    • God describes himself as “the Alpha and Omega”. These were the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. That is like saying he covers our needs from “A to Z”. There isn't anything he isn't capable of dealing with.
  • 44. He is the one “who is and who was and who is to come”.
    • This reminds us of his self-revelation to Moses at Sinai.
      • Exo 3:14 WEB God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM,” and he said, “You shall tell the children of Israel this: “I AM has sent me to you.”
    • Yahweh signifies existence.
      • God IS! Others come and go. In Egypt, there were many Pharaohs and many dynasties. One had a 10 lesson course in who rules – we call it the plagues. He finally learned that Pharaohs come and go; but God IS and God RULES!
  • 45. Down through the OT, others had to learn their lesson the hard way.
    • Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that led to him being deposed. He was off the throne, and quite insane, until he acknowledged that God IS and God RULES! You can read the story in Daniel 4, but the bottom line was Nebuchadnezzar's final realization:
    • Dan 4:34-35 WEB At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him who lives forever; for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom from generation to generation. …
  • 46. Revelation was written when the church was facing more upstart kings
    • In First Century Rome, there was a group of fellows who thought they ruled the world.
    • Revelation is God's promise that the Roman emperors were going to learn the same lesson Egypt's Pharaohs and Babylon's Nebuchadnezzar learned:
    • Kingdoms of the world come and go; God's kingdom remains. In other words, God IS and God RULES!
  • 47. There is one last, great word that John uses to describe God.
    • It is the Greek pantokrator , which means “all powerful”.
    • This is a word that we're going to find in a number of contexts through the book.
  • 48. Those around God's throne extol him as “the Almighty”.
    • Rev 4:8 WEB The four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around about and within. They have no rest day and night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come!”
    • Rev 11:16-17 WEB The twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God's throne, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give you thanks, Lord God, the Almighty, the one who is and who was; because you have taken your great power, and reigned.
  • 49. The “Song of the Lamb” and the altar praise God as “the Almighty”.
    • Rev 15:3 WEB They sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are your ways, you King of the nations.
    • Rev 16:7 WEB I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments.”
  • 50. There is a battle on “the great day of God, the Almighty”.
    • Rev 16:13-14 WEB I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits, something like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs; which go forth to the kings of the whole inhabited earth, to gather them together for the war of that great day of God, the Almighty.
  • 51. When God judges Rome, the elders praise God as “the Almighty”.
    • Rev 19:6 WEB I heard something like the voice of a great multitude, and like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of mighty thunders, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns!
    • Jesus executes the wrath of God, “the Almighty”.
      • Rev 19:15 WEB Out of his mouth proceeds a sharp, double-edged sword, that with it he should strike the nations. He will rule them with a rod of iron. He treads the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty.
  • 52. In the description of the “the new Jerusalem”:
    • Rev 21:22 WEB I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple.
    • John never lets us forget that God is “the Almighty”.
    • He doesn't want the reader to lose sight of who’s really in control – God IS and God RULES!