Today we are beginning a study of what many consider to be the most challenging book in the Bible: the book of Revelation. Martin Luther was so puzzled by this book that he questioned whether it should even be a part of Scripture. John Calvin never wrote a commentary on Revelation. But both Christians and non-Christians are curious about the mysteries and obscurities found in this book. One reason for such widespread interest is the author’s opening statement that the book’s aim is to show “what must soon take place” (v. 1).
Although the book deals with events that will take place in the future, it is not really a history written in advance. John calls it “the revelation from Jesus Christ . . . and the testimony of Jesus Christ” (vv. 1–2). This identifies both the book’s narrow focus and its source. Whatever its complexities, this vision given to John the Apostle has Christ at the heart of all that it reveals. Specifically, Revelation is about events surrounding Christ’s Second Coming. Here at the beginning of the book we find a snapshot of how the whole story will end: “‘Look, he is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see him, even those who pierced him’ and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him.’ So shall it be! Amen” (v. 7).
In these opening verses, John repeats several times that this revelation was given to him by Christ. However strange the book may seem to some, its content is not made up of John’s own fancies. Revelation is the testimony of Jesus Christ about Himself. Even when we do not completely understand all that we read, we can still rely upon its truth because it is the testimony of the one who is “the faithful witness” (v. 5).
You might find it helpful to listen to an audio version of the book to get a sense of its overall flow of thought. You will be in good company—the original recipients of John’s book would not have read it for themselves but rather listened as someone else read to them (v. 3). You can listen to an audio version for free at biblegateway.com.