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Book of Revelation

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The Book of Revelation is the sixty-sixth and last book of the Bible. It is an account of a series of visions received by a man named John (often referred to as "St. John the Divine") on the island of Patmos. This John has been identified by many, including the historian Eusebius, with John the Evangelist. The visions describe the end of the world, the second coming of Jesus and the final judgement of mankind amid a series of turbulent and unsettling events. All is written in the symbolic style of apocalyptic writing popular in the first century AD, which makes it difficult for most modern readers to interpret.

Many ideas and events in Revelation have become common cultural references. These include:

  • the number of the Beast (being 666)
  • the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
  • the breaking of the seven seals that signal the end times
  • the lamb that speaks with the voice of a serpent
  • the seven-headed, ten-horned Beast from the Sea
  • the Whore of Babylon (believed by many Protestants to refer to Rome).

Beliefs about the tribulation held by Christians stem from interpretations of Revelation (and Daniel). The belief held by Jehovah's Witnesses about a limit on the number of people who can enter Heaven also stems from Revelation (Revelation 7 speaks of 144,000 sealed with the seal of God; however, the latter part of the chapter speaks of a "great multitude which none could count" in Heaven praising God.)

During the pageant in the Earthly Paradise in Dante's Purgatorio, Revelation is represented by a ragged old man in a trance-like state who stumbles along at the very end of the procession.

Basic perspectives

There are three basic perspectives on the book of Revelation, corresponding to past, present and future:

  • Preterism: sees the events of the book as largely already been fulfilled, and as dealing with events in the first century AD. At its most extreme form (hyper-preterism), the entirety of the book is placed in the first century; more moderate preterists place the last few chapters in the future, but see the bulk of the book as already having been fulfilled
  • Historicism: sees the events of the book as playing out throughout the history of the Christian Church. This was the most popular position in the Reformation period, including Luther and Calvin, who both identified the Beast with the Pope and the Catholic Church (a viewpoint less popular nowadays, given that institution is greatly weakened in power compared to previous centuries, and relationships between Protestants and Catholics are greatly improved compared to centuries past)
  • Futurism: places the bulk of the events in the book in the future

Hybrids of these three perspectives are also possible. One particular hybrid is the Idealist reading, which sees the characters of Revelation (e.g. the Beast), not as unique individuals, but as types which are fulfilled multiple times in multiple situations throughout history.

Seven Vials

In Revelation 16, there are seventh vials of God's wrath poured out upon the world. These vials are summarised in the following table:

Vial # Verses Poured Upon/Into Consequences
1 Rev 16:2 Earth Followers of the antichrist receive ulcers
2 Rev 16:3 Sea The sea turns to blood, and all life within it perishes
3 Rev 16:4-7 Rivers and fountains of waters Freshwater turns to blood also
4 Rev 16:8-9 Sun The sun’s heat scorches humankind
5 Rev 16:10-11 Seat of the beast Darkness, pain and disease for the kingdom of the antichrist
6 Rev 16:12-16 River Euphrates The water of the river dries up to enable armies to cross it for the Armageddon battle
7 Rev 16:17 Air A voice saying “It is done”



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Prophecy The Revelation to John
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