Historical Background

We take the position that Revelation was written in 96 A.D. We believe the internal evidence for this is solid, and will, therefore, look at the historical from this perspective.

Domitian was Caesar in Rome and demanded Emperor worship (81-96 A.D.). This, of course, was contrary to the religion of Christ. To give in to it, would be do betray the Savior and engage in rank idolatry.

Rome was built on conquest and commerce (Rev. 18:11-14). Christians refused to enlist in the military because of the oath to idols. Again, they could not swear allegiance to a false god and remain true to Jesus.

The materialism that was rampant in the Empire was grossly displayed by the rulers. Caligula, for instance, spent $500,000 on one banquet alone. His wife’s emeralds cost equivalent to $2 million. This runs contrary to the gospel that equates covetousness to idolatry (Col. 3:5).

Sin was also wide spread under Roman rule. Sexual immorality, various crimes, and loss of family affection were common. The practice and prevalence of divorce and remarriage was not all that unlike our society today.

Christians were despised by the populace. Their religion was unlike others and caused Rome and many of its citizens to react negatively. It was an:

  • Illegal religion that sought to proselytize.
  • Universal religion viewed as a threat to Rome.
  • Exclusive religion socially and in beliefs and practices.

Christians were accused of doing evil as well. Their affection for one another was held in suspicion. They were rumored to eat flesh and blood. Yes, they did, but not like the stories that were told (Matt. 26:26-29).

Christians also refused to engage in emperor worship. They were fierce in their loyalty to the Lord. This was viewed not only as odd, stubborn, and ridiculous, but also as rebellion to Caesar.

Persecution under Domitian was terrible. He appointed men to enforce emperor worship. Punishment included confiscation of property, exile, torture, and death. Many Christians faced these things as they were told they would (1 Pet. 4:12-16; 2 Tim. 3:12).

Message and Theme

During these hard times under Roman rule, Christians were wondering if Christ and His religion would survive.

The term “war” appears ten times in the book (Rev. 12:7). It gives us the picture of a battle between good and evil, right and wrong. In the end, good triumphs over evil; the Savior and His forces defeat the devil and his minions (Rev. 17:14).

The letter encourages Christians in their struggle. “Overcome” is used eight times in reference to them (Rev. 2:7). It is hard for us to imagine the challenge they faced and all the trying circumstances in which they found themselves. But we can know one thing, if the Lord was there for them and gave them the strength to overcome what they went through, then He will be there for us and provide us the strength to triumph as well (Heb. 13:5, 6).

Steven F. Deaton

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