The Revelation of Saint John the Divine

“The Revelation of Saint John the Divine,” New Testament Teacher Resource Manual (2002), 247–265

The book of Revelation is sometimes called the Apocalypse, which in Greek means “revelation,” “uncovering,” or “unveiling.” In Revelation John records events Jesus Christ showed him in vision “which must shortly come to pass” (Revelation 1:1). The purpose of the book is to bless those who hear “the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein” (v. 3).

The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “the book of Revelation is one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 290). Though it is rich with imagery and symbols that are not always easy to identify, the themes of the book are simple and inspiring. As one Latter-day Saint educator wrote: “We can, like Former-day Saints, watch and be ready. We can be vigilant, ever alert to evil in all its diverse forms. We can take heart that the God of heaven is in charge, that He presides over the affairs of men and women, and that divine justice and pardoning mercy shall yet deliver and reward the Saints” (Robert L. Millet, “Revelation of John Offers Recurring Lessons, Doctrinal Refrains and Hope,” Church News, 23 Dec. 1995, 10). For more information about the book of Revelation see “John’s Witness of the Church Triumphant” in The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles (pp. 443–47).

Author: John, the son of Zebedee and the beloved disciple of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 4:21–22), is the author of this book (see 1 Nephi 14:18–27; see also Bible Dictionary, (“John,” p. 715).

Audience: Revelation is addressed to seven branches of the Church in Asia Minor (see Revelation 2–3). However, the message of Revelation is not reserved exclusively for them. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “John saw that only which was lying in futurity” (Teachings, 289), which makes it of interest to Saints living in the latter days. The Lord revealed to Moroni that when latter-day Israel repents and once again acknowledges their covenants, “then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people” (Ether 4:16; see vv. 14–17).

Historical Background:Revelation was written in a day of severe persecution against the Saints. Most likely this persecution was administered by Rome either during the reign of Nero (A.D. 54–68) or Domitian (A.D. 81–96). Domitian in particular persecuted those who did not worship gods approved by the state, and many who refused were executed or exiled during his reign. John wrote from the island of Patmos, a Roman penal colony, where he had been exiled “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (see Revelation 1:9; see also “Introduction” in The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, pp. 449–50).

Along with heavy persecution from external forces, the early Church suffered from internal apostasy. Paul said that “grievous wolves [would] enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). By the late first century A.D. Paul’s prophecy had become a reality. The warning voice against false teachers and doctrines found in John’s epistles and in Revelation 2–3 reveals the extent to which apostasy had seeped into the Church in his day (see Bible Dictionary, (“John, Epistles of,” p. 715).

Theme: “The message of Revelation is the same as that of all scripture: there will be an eventual triumph on this earth of God over the devil; a permanent victory of good over evil, of the saints over their persecutors, of the kingdom of God over the kingdoms of men and of Satan” (Bible Dictionary, (“Revelation of John,” 762). John extended the message of hope to all those who overcome the enticements of the world (see Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).