The Apostle John

Studies in his Life and Writings

By W. H. Griffith Thomas

Part 4. - The Revelation

Chapter 1


There is, perhaps, no book in the New Testament as to which there are greater differences of opinion. Yet, as attention is so frequently, and at present so specially, concentrated on it, it seems necessary to endeavor to discover its meaning and purpose, especially because of what is its unique feature among New Testament books, the promise of a blessing on the reader and hearer of "the words of this prophecy" (1:3). But in view of these serious and often fundamental differences and notable difficulties, it has been thought best to provide material for study rather than to give my own conclusions, which would not be convincing to all readers.

The New Testament, as. a, record of divine revelation, is concerned with the past, the present, and the future. It includes a consideration of the Person of Christ in the Gospels, of the Church of Christ in the Acts and Epistles, and of the Rule of Christ in the apocalypse. Thus, to use a well-known simile, we have respectively the foundation, the structure, and the completely furnished house. Or, to put it otherwise, the New Testament makes its appeal to Faith, to Love, and to Hope.

There would thus be a distinct incompleteness without this book of the Revelation, which corresponds to the prophecies of the Old Testament. Some, however. are deterred from studying it by reason of its difficulties; but, while these are real, they should not hinder us from giving the book the best attention possible. A blessing is assured to those who read, hear, and understand its message (1:3), and we know that even Old Testament prophets did not understand their own words, but were constantly endeavoring to discover the meaning (1 Pet. 1:11; 2 Pet. 1:19).

As to the authorship, there does not seem to be. any valid reason for departing from the tradition of the Church in regard to the Apostle John. The substance and claim of the book also point in' this direction.

The date is" now usually regarded as that of the time of the Emperor Domitian, near' the close of the first century.

The title is The Revelation of Jesus Christ, meaning the revelation which was received by Christ from God for us and given through angels by John. It is a "revelation" of his glory in relation to the world, the unveiling of the future in and through him. It is thus a book which emphasizes him and calls attention to him in all the glory of his Divine Person and universal sway.

Its character is that of a book of visions. "I saw" occurs over forty times. It is symbolical, a book which "signifies" (1:1), a communication by means of "signs."