Revelation


A PASTORAL LETTER ON THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
FROM A ROMAN PRISON ON THE ISLAND OF PATMOS

From: John, a servant of Jesus Christ
To: The seven churches in Asia
Subject: Things present and things to come

Things present

Jesus told me to write this to you. He knows what you're doing, so clean up your act (Chapter 1-3). Heaven is still in business and Jesus is honored there (Chapter 4-5). He will initiate the awful days of divine retribution at the proper time (Chapter 6-7), and then the end will come (Chapter 8-10).

But this is not the end of the world. This is the destruction of Jerusalem foreseen by the prophet Daniel. As he said, this war lasted "a time and times and a half time" which is three and a half years (Chapter 11). Think of it this way: Satan tried to destroy the true Israelites who brought forth the Messiah, but they escaped into the desert and survived (Chapter 12).

The Romans have been given power to make war and to conquer, so don't resist them: this is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints (Chapter 13). On the other hand, don't worship what they worship, or sell your souls to them, lest you also merit the wrath of God: this is also a call for the endurance of the saints. Let them go: keep yourselves pure so you will go to heaven (Chapter 14).

Things to come

Sooner or later the Romans will get what they deserve (Chapter 15-16). The city of Rome itself will be destroyed (Chapter 17-18), and there will be rejoicing in heaven (Chapter 19).

After that, Satan will be bound and the saints will rule for a thousand years. Then he must be loosed for a little while. He will gather the nations for battle, as predicted by the prophet Ezekiel, and they will surround Jerusalem, but fire will come down from heaven and destroy them (Chapter 20).

And then the end will come: there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and a new Jerusalem will be sent down from heaven, holy and pure and very beautiful. There will be no more suffering or sorrow, for God and Jesus will dwell among men and the saints will rule for ever (Chapter 21-22).

Yours truly:
John

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Notes:

1. Scholars differ as to whether Revelation was written soon after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 or about 25 years later during Domitian's reign of terror against anyone who refused to recognize him as a god (AD 92-96). In either case, it was written during a time of tribulation.

2. Jerusalem fell after 3 1/2 years (42 months or 1260 days) of war with Rome, from February 66 to August 70. Hence all the references to this amount of time.

3. Daniel: chapters 9 through 12 contain such predictions. However, many modern scholars have come to the conclusion that Daniel was written as a pastoral letter of encouragement during the reign of terror by Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 BC) that led to the Maccabean revolt.

4. The Christians in Jerusalem remembered Jesus's prediction (Luke 21:20), and when they saw the city surrounded by armies, they fled across the Jordan river to Pella, in the desert, and so survived.

5. The harlot was the city of Rome and the beast was the Roman Empire. The number of the beast (666) is a clever reference to the Roman numeral system. It lists in their proper order the letters used for numbers in that system (DCLXVI). There are some ancient copies of Revelation in which the number is 1666 (MDCLXVI).

6. Armageddon means "Hill of Megiddo". It is named in Revelation 16 as the place of the last great battle between good and evil. The ancient town of Megiddo was 10 miles southwest of Nazareth and 21 miles southeast of Cape Carmel or the modern city of Haifa. "Valley of Armageddon" probably refers to the valley that Megiddo overlooked; it runs from Haifa southeast to the Jordan River.

7. Ezekiel (chapters 38-39) predicts that in the later years Gog of Magog will come against Israel "out of the uttermost parts of the north." Magog refers to the ancient Scythians, whose nomadic territory centered in what is now southern Russia and the Ukraine. They ranged east to the Altai Mountains and west into what are now Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary, Poland and eastern Germany. These predictions also state that Persia (now Iran), Cush (now Ethiopia), Put (now Libya), Gomer (north of the Black Sea), and Bethtogarmah (between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea bordering northern Turkey and Iran) will side with Gog of Magog. Clearly, this war has not happened at any time in the (approximately) 2,550 years since these predictions were written.