The book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John while in exile on the Island of Patmos, just off modern-day Turkey. The book was addressed as epistles to seven actual churches in Asia Minor (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea). It contained commendations, exhortations, and reproofs to the churches. The Apostle saw a vision of Jesus Christ in all his glory. Jesus identifies himself as the ‘Alpha and Omega, the first and the last’ and then goes on to instruct John to write down the things that he sees.
Revelation can be broken down into two major divisions. The first of which is ‘the things which are’. This is in reference to the message to the 7 churches. There were more than seven churches in Asia as at that time – two of such churches are Magnesia and Tralles. The letters to the seven churches are therefore not meant for those churches alone but they are a message from the Lord Jesus Christ himself to the universal church – everywhere and of all times.
“so it is implied that John, through the medium of the seven churches, addresses in the Spirit the Church of all places and ages.”
The second division of the book is ‘the things which are yet to come’. This refers to the prophetic essence of the book where we read a series of visions and messages the Apostle received that foretell the future of the church, the return of the Lord and the end of time.
‘Three schools of interpreters exist:
(1) The Preterists, who hold that almost the whole has been fulfilled
(2) The Historical Interpreters, who hold that it comprises the history of the Church from John’s time to the end of the world, the seals being chronologically succeeded, by the trumpets and the trumpets by the vials
(3) The Futurists, who consider almost the whole as yet future, and to be fulfilled immediately before Christ’s second coming’
Above are the three major schools of interpreters of the book of Revelation. The Preterists’ view can be regarded as not consistent with many verses in the book because we are told of things that are yet to occur in the church and in the world at large. The Futurists view also contradicts John’s message to the seven churches as he was addressing current issues amongst those seven churches. Therefore, by the two divisions of the book (‘things which are’ and ‘things which are yet to come’), it is safe for one to interpret the book as the Historical interpreters do.
Revelation is known to be steep in imagery, prophetic language and recordings of supernatural occurrences. Due to this, many find it difficult to read and understand what is contained in this powerful book. You can tell it is a very special book because it begins with a blessing for all who read it aloud, hear it being read and obey it (Rev 1:3) and ends with a caveat for anyone who would either add or subtract anything from the book (Rev 22:18-19). As we embark on this journey, let us all remember to be prayerful and ask for the leading of the spirit of God during this period. Jesus said of him (The Spirit) that he will teach us all things. ‘All things’ includes the book of Revelation.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary